I know we’ve talked about this before, but I really don’t like animal books. I try to save all my animal love (which is less than the average person, I fear) for real-life animals. So I was delighted to learn that Hitty (short for Mehitabel… no, I’m not making this up) was a doll. Not a cat or dog or faithful companion from the animal kingdom doomed to die (because the animal–especially the dog– always dies). Not only was Hitty a doll, but she narrates her own story of her 100 year life. Dolls and creative narrators I can definitely do!
According to this really fun and helpful website, author Rachel Field actually found a doll named Hitty at an antique store and proceeded to write her story down. She used people she knew from the area and incorporated historical facts into her narrative.
At the beginning of the story, Hitty the doll is sitting on a shelf high above an antique store. She has access to a quill pen, ink, paper, and a desk, so she sets out to write about her last 100 years:
She begins at the very beginning (a very good place to start): an Old Peddler carves Hitty from mountain-ash wood in the State of Maine in the early 1800s. She belongs to a little girl named Phoebe Preble, whose father is a sea captain. Which is how Hitty ends up here:
I found myself cheering for Hitty and hoping she would return home after she gets lost a time or two. And I found myself completely engrossed in her story as she survives a shipwreck, ends up in India, hangs out with some Quakers for a while, visits New Orleans, and all sorts of other adventures.
It was the first time in a while that I really appreciated all the quirks of this book being written in 1929. In fact, I think my new favorite word is “wadgetty:”
All in all, I really liked Hitty and her story. Especially now that I know she was a real doll! This particularly encouraging entry might give me the motivation I need to get through the next one: The Cat who went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. Maybe this animal book will surprise me… Here’s hoping.