Saturday, September 04, 2021

Newbery Winner: Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Hi again, everybody! Hubby-Eric, here, with my continuing series of trying to read all the Newbery Medal winning books in order. Thankfully, with COVID restrictions easing up, it's a lot easier for my library to get books through interlibrary loan again, so the gaps may not be quite so large between entries now. This time around, the 1930 winner (for books published in 1929), Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field. I remember reading this one many years ago, and I still remembered quite a bit of it.

Hitty is a doll, carved from a piece of mountian-ash wood, for Phoebe, a little girl in Maine in the early nineteenth century. And can I just say, this doll has had some adventures! As the book opens, Hitty (short for Mahitabel) is in a New York City antique store where, when the proprietors and other humans are away, she is writing her memoirs. (Shades of Toy Story!) In the wilds of Maine, Hitty's first experiences involve being locked in a church, being snatche by birds and stuck in a tree, and other such shenanigans. It's when Phoebe's father takes the family on a whaling expedition that things start to get really exciting as Hitty is adopted by the crew, they are shipwrecked and Hitty becomes an idol to a native tribe, she is rescued and then lost again in the streets of Bombay, becomes a prop for a snake charmer, adopted by a missionary family who then whisk her back to New England, goes to the opera to hear a celebrated diva sing, becomes a fashion plate and photographic model, gets lost in a horsehair sofa and a hay loft, meets a famous poet and an even more famous author, and spends some time among sharecroppers in Louisiana before finally becoming an antique. But through it all, the sturdy chemise that Phoebe cross-stiched "Hitty" on always stayed with her, so everybody know her name.

Phew! What a life! Yeah, she also spends long stretches of time in boxes or trunks or stored in camphor, so her sense of time can be a little jarring, but that's how Hitty's experiences happened. Even when I first read it, I couldn't help wondering what Hitty's been up to since this book came out, and I can't help wondering if some creative soul out there can't get to work on Hitty, Her Second Hundred Years now. Think of all the odd new experiences she would have in the twentieth century! It would be hard, however, to top this book, as I suspect Hitty's recent history would primarily involve being on display now that she's an antique and a collectible.