Cover image for Rachel Field's Hitty : her first hundred years
Rachel Field's Hitty : her first hundred years
Wells, Rosemary.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Physical Description:
102 pages : color illustrations, map ; 30 cm
A doll named Hitty recounts her adventures as she moves through a continually changing string of owners.
General Note:
"1930 Newberry award-winning story" - cover.
Reading Level:
750 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.4 3.0 35623.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.7 6 Quiz: 31003 Guided reading level: T.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Juvenile Fiction Award Winners
X Juvenile Fiction Open Shelf
X Juvenile Fiction Award Winners

On Order



Based on the 1930 Newberry Award Winner On a cold Maine night in 1829, an old peddler carved a small doll out of a piece of mountain ash wood. Her name was Hitty and she was no ordinary doll. Hitty's first owner, Phoebe Preble, takes her from Boston to India. From the hands of Phoebe Preble, Hitty travels on with a snake charmer, a Civil War soldier, a riverboat captains daughter, and a former slave. Along the way she meets presidents and painters, relating each adventure in vivid detail. Rachel Field's masterful novel Hitty: Her First Hundred Years was first published in 1929; it was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1930. In this full-color adaptation, the award-winning team of Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers has taken Hitty down from the shelf and dusted her off for a new generation of younger readers. The short, fast-paced chapters and pictures on every spread bring life to this beloved classic, and make it perfect for sharing with the whole family.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Focus: Golden Girls? The new premise in children's publishing isn't complicated: focus on books that will sell in bookstores. Just like in supermarkets, this retailing concept translates into providing product that has name recognition and brand loyalty. One manifestation of this trend has been to spin off children's literature's classic characters into toys, games, and all other conceivable merchandise until they're gyrating like tops. Call a newer take on pushing the bookstore market the revival strategy: finding unpublished manuscripts about old favorites, reissuing stories about familiar characters, and abridging classics into picture books for a younger age group than the original readers. Clearly this gambit makes sense in the bookstore world, where adult buyers reach for something--anything--that looks familiar. But how does it translate for libraries, where as professionals we prefer that our top-of-the-line brands remain just that? This fall three books (among others) were published that fit into the revival strategy. They work with varying degrees of success. The text and sketches for Madeline in America were found by Ludwig Bemelmans' grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, in the author's files. In an informative preface, Marciano describes how his grandfather met Stanley Marcus of Neiman-Marcus in the early 1950s, prompting Bemelmans to write Madeline in Texas. That book was never finished, though a truncated version was offered as a giveaway to N-M shoppers. After discovering the manuscript, Marciano researched Texas sites for background images and then completed the pictures in full color. The book is an attractive offering. Although the linework of the drawings seems less precise than in the other books, it's a delight to see the art in full color. The story is fun, too, as Madeline, Miss Clavel, and the rest of the girls ride and rope, visit an oil well, and go shopping in the "world's greatest store" (happily not identified as Neiman-Marcus.) Several additional writings are included in the book . "The Count and the Cobbler" is a short, appealing parable. "Sunshine," the story of a landlord who wants to dislodge a music teacher on Christmas Eve, features some very nice art but becomes tedious. Children won't be terribly interested in the additional matter, but the Texas adventure will be welcome for anyone craving more Madeline. Less successful is the reissue of Kay Thompson's Eloise at Christmas, the latest in the recent effort to relaunch the career of the little girl who lives at the Plaza in New York. Eloise, always less read than Madeline, evokes a hazy memory for many adults and is probably unknown to most children. Kids who don't know Eloise's story will wonder where her parents are and what she's doing running around a hotel. The hodge-podge text is hard to read aloud, right from the first rhyme: "Once there was this child / You know her I believe / Here's who she is me ELOISE / and it's Christmas eve." The best part of the Eloise series has always been Hilary Knight's bursting-with-life artwork, and that's especially true here. The very long text, bouncing all over the place, gets both support and focus in Knight's pictures, four spreads of which are new to this book. It is the pen-and-ink art juxtaposed against peppermint-pink backgrounds that makes the book worth purchasing for libraries that want to own all four Eloise titles or that have demand. Rachel Field's Hitty, is a different animal. This is not just an illustrated version of the Newbery-winning Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, nor even an illustrated abridgement. Wells takes the story in a new direction. As she admits in the author's note, when Susan Jeffers asked her to shorten the story so Jeffers could illustrate it anew, Wells "didn't want to touch it." Warned off by both booksellers and librarians, Wells soon realized even they hadn't read the book in 30 years. Consequently, she decided to give it new life. Librarians who do reread Hitty might be surprised at what they find. What readers remember, of course, is the story of a carved doll who gets lost and found all over the world. What they probably don't remember are some of the particulars: Hitty's shipwreck on a South Sea island where near-naked "savages" act "like a parcel of children." Back in America Hitty is found by black children who, along with their elders, speak a dialect that includes lots of "dis and dat" and whose white eyeballs and teeth gleam. Hitty's political incorrectness is a topic for another piece, but suffice it to say, in the Wells and Jeffers version, it's gone. So much so that in the picture of the South Sea islanders, the men are wrapped in gleaming robes down to their toes. Wells has abridged the first half of her text from Hitty, and though choppy in spots, it gives the flavor of the original and covers a good deal of ground in an abbreviated manner. Then Wells takes unexpected liberty. In the original, Hitty almost gets sent south during the Civil War. Wells brings her there and later to other new places. "Hitty's adventures tumbled suddenly into a much noiser and more diverse American landscape," Wells notes. She has indeed broadened the story, perhaps too much, with Hitty now meeting, among others, a girl in a wheelchair and Teddy Roosevelt's children. Purists will object to the changes, but there is no doubt that Jeffers and Wells have produced a genuinely beautiful book. Jeffers is at the top of her game, offering pictures that are delightful in their detail and charming in their execution. The text, which was rewritten with the permission of Field's estate, is also winning, especially when Wells begins adding her own layers, where the writing seems most comfortable. The story continually propels readers deeper into the mix of Hitty's new and original adventures, and children will be caught in a story that's true to the original in spirit if not in details. Librarians need to know that this isn't their mothers' Hitty, but finally, that may not be a bad thing. Clearly, bookstore patrons will be happy to find the oversize, attractive Hitty (and Madeline and perhaps Eloise, too) waiting to be plucked from the shelves. Librarians, however, should ask a few questions about each "new" revival: What changes have been made to the text and the art? How does the book stack up against others in the series? And perhaps most important, would this book merit purchase if it didn't have a familiar title? Unlike Hitty, not all books need a second hundred years. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

Field's 1930 Newbery Medal-winning classic about a doll with a taste for adventure gets resized, relocated and redecorated in this handsome storybook adaptation. As in Field's version, this Hitty begins her memoirs in 1829 Maine as an old peddler carves her out of a piece of mountain ash from Kilkenny, Ireland. Mountain-ash wood, Hitty confides, is said to bring luck and to have "power against mischief"; indeed, as Hitty travels from owner to owner, she emerges from some precarious spots (a shipwreck in the South Seas, a gutter in Bombay). Wells adjusts the prose for '90s sensibilities (e.g., there are no longer any "heathens" or "savages," and whaling is said to "seem cruel and heartless, [but] at the time it was necessary. She parts company with Field altogether in creating different adventures for Hitty: her Hitty goes South during the Civil War, crosses paths with a freed slave and, many episodes later, ends up not in a shop, awaiting new destinations (as in the original), but as the prize possession of that former slave's granddaughter. Jeffers (who with Wells reprised Lassie Come Home) will surely captivate readers of all ages with her lustrous color art. Loosely reminiscent of early-20th-century illustrators like Jessie Willcox Smith, Jeffers's paintings have an appropriately nostalgic feel. The large trim size, elegant design and a layout that offers illustrations on every page add to a volume that is as charming as its subject. Ages 6-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 1-5-Purists may balk at this revision of the 1930 Newbery winner, but many modern readers will be charmed by this repackaged memoir of a century-old wooden doll. Many of Field's characters, destinations, and phrases remain intact, and Wells does an admirable job of matching her voice. Hitty's story still begins with a peddler's carved gift for a sea captain's daughter and concludes with the doll's anticipation of future adventures as she views an airplane. Much, however, has changed. Wells shortens the chapters, edits the wordiness, omits the black dialect, and changes the South Sea "Injuns" to "Islanders," with the overall effect of a quickened pace and heightened action. She departs completely from the original after the outbreak of the Civil War. Hitty is now mailed south of the Mason-Dixon line and encounters her first violence when the post office blows up. Jeffers's full-page gouache paintings and the smaller details carry much of the meaning, portraying with dramatic perspective the danger of a storm at sea or using architecture, flora, and fauna to create locale. The generous use of space between lines of text, the sheen of the creamy paper, and the oversized format lend luxury to the telling. Hitty is in good hands for the next 100 years.-Wendy Lukehart, Dauphin County Library, Harrisburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.