Rachel Field's Hitty, Her First Hundred Years

Rosemary Wells, Author, Susan Jeffers, Illustrator
Rosemary Wells, Author, Susan Jeffers, Illustrator Simon & Schuster $21.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-689-81716-8
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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.)
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