HITTY Her First Hundred Years was published before I was born, before my mother was born! I wanted to see if such books are still “readable” in the twenty-first century. My answer? It depends.
As soon as I opened the book, my heart sank. Long narrations and detailed descriptions filled page after page. White space was almost nonexistent. Our instant society can’t stand that, but I challenge those of you who are interested in sampling variety in your reading pleasure:
PLAN to take your time and savor the details that Rachel Field offers to you in this historical novel for children.
HITTY is a doll, carved by a backwoods peddler in the 1820s. Now, she’s an expensive antique watching the world from a shop window. And she decides to write her memoirs. From her beginnings in early America Maine to the South Seas and India, from New Orleans to New York, Boston, and eventually, her original home town, Hitty regales her readers, young and old, with historical details of events, cultures, and fashions. The further I progressed, the more enthralled I became with her story. No wonder Fields won the 1930 Newbery Medal.
1. Hitty’s voice is immediately distinctive. I love reading passages out loud just to hear her!
2. Field’s talent for description is amazing. Read the words and YOU ARE THERE.
3. The book is a wonderful history text, told in story form, and gives us a living sense of the times of each era.
1. Since Hitty has no ability to speak, dialog is minimal, and I do love dialog in fiction. The only conversations we can read are those where Hitty was a witness.
2. I found myself skimming some of the long descriptions. I’m sure they were just as good as the ones where I read every detail. I confess—while I’m a patient reader, I live in the twenty-first century, and I have my moments of “hurry up and get on with it.”
Pick a chapter, any chapter. Ask your child or students about the setting, about how things have changed since Hitty first started her adventures. What have they gleaned from her description of her current surroundings? Hitty maintains an 1830s worldview, so as the decades pass and society’s mores evolve, her values do not.
Take your time and enjoy this gentle voyage through history.