Sally’s Rating: 3/5
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years is a story of knowing one’s place in the world and letting fate take you where it will. Hitty, a doll sitting in an antique store, writes her memoirs while fondly remembering the days when her life was more adventurous. From riding on a whaling ship to being worshiped as an idol in the South Seas to living with the Quakers and meeting the famed Charles Dickens, Hitty has seen it all.
Author Rachel Field writes the novel in a way that lets children experience the 1800’s from a unique perspective – a doll’s eyes. The book reads very quickly, with each chapter encompassing a different time in her life with a different owner. The doll travels everywhere – Maine, the South Sea Islands, India, and the Mississippi River. Each chapter shows a different aspect of the eastern Americas (for the most part) throughout the time period. While the book is fictional, it is written to be educational as well, and children with a love for history may find this a compelling book to pick up.
The parts that rang the most true to me were the moments when Hitty was lost. From being forgotten in the sofa to being misplaced in a hay wagon or being lost in a field, Hitty has gone through as much displacement and loss as a doll possibly experience. Every child can understand the fear of losing their favorite toy and the dreadful feeling of separation. At one point, a girl stuffs Hitty down into the creases of a sofa because she is embarrassed of the old, ugly doll. Years pass and the doll is found in the attic by a new family. The author’s use of these mundane situations makes the story feel more real since we have all been in situations where we have lost a toy or got rid of one because a new one replaced it. Yet Hitty doesn’t really question or get angry that these things happen; she is simply along for the ride, hoping that one day she’ll get an owner who will take care of her.
The book is very eventful and a decent read. Yet, since Hitty can only be an observer, she is very passive towards the events that are going on around her. While not the most exciting book, I could see myself enjoying it as a child, especially if I was into historical fiction. Despite having an interesting premise, this book is definitely a much more juvenile and tame book than the Newbery winners that came before it. While this isn’t a bad thing, the book still lacks that spark that makes for a great read.