If you think one century of a doll's adventures would make a boring story, you haven't readHitty: Her First Hundred Years. Hitty is a doll carved from a piece of mountain-ash wood, which the Old Peddler who creates her says is magic. He tells Phoebe Preble that mountain-ash wards off bad luck, a statement we're left to question time and time again as we read Hitty's memoirs.
From her first adventure trapped for nearly a week under the Preble's church pew to being held hostage in a crow's nest; from going to sea in the whaling vessel captained by Phoebe's father to being worshipped by island natives as an idol; from a stint in India to sitting on an antique shop shelf, Hitty experiences much more than most dolls, and many humans, too.
Hitty's matter of fact attitude and quiet humor are immediately endearing. Whatever comes her way, whether happy memories of living in a Christian household and providing hours of fun to Phoebe or shipwreck and capture, the little doll is always cheerful and ready to face what comes next, though she certainly experiences fear and uncertainty.
Having said that,Hitty: Her First Hundred Yearsfalls somewhat flat. The narrative comes full circle, but not in a "What have we learned?" way. Rather, we've seen much of the world through a doll's eyes, but haven't improved or changed either as empathetic readers or as people. Hitty's adventures are simply adventures, without much if any deeper meaning.
That doesn't mean this is a worthless book. Rachel Field's tale is immensely imaginative, at times quite funny, and beautifully written throughout. If nothing more, kids will find Hitty an engaging narrator, and the chronicle of her many experiences a gateway to their own.
Compared to much of what passes as children's literature these days, including many Newbery Medal winners (Hittytook the award in 1930), this is an excellent novel. While there's no explicit moral, Hitty's attitude and Christian morals provide an excellent example for young readers, as well as for their elders who will also doubtless enjoy this tale.
Rachel Field also illustratedHitty: Her First Hundred Yearswith fine pen and ink drawings which capture both the elegance and exuberance of the story. The two examples above demonstrate the breadth of Hitty's adventures, from being used as a show doll to being lost amid mice in a haystack.
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