This is going to be a solo post this time. I (Benji) have been working on Hitty off and on for a few weeks now. It wasn’t an easy read for me. I was really looking forward to it, thinking that after a decade of only men winning the Newbery, the first woman winner was a big step for the award. Sadly, the same racism and class-ism that plagued a few of the winners from the 1920’s is present in Hitty as well.
Hitty has many adventures that take her around the world, and when she encounters natives of an eastern aisle, she calls them savages, which I guess is what most Americans at the time would have called them. She is a little condescending to the people of India, and at one point she is relieved when she isn’t taken home with an Irish family, who she describes as boisterous and dirty. The worst part for me, though, is when she is taken found by an African American family. The dialect switches from the perfect English that had been used the whole book by all of the white characters to “I is gwine to tell you one thing,” and “Whiter now dan de dribben snow.” I mean, it’s ok to use dialect, but come on. Even your white sailors from earlier in the book used decent English. It’s a bit condescending of the author to just switch like that for one ethnic group. I understand that this book is from a different time, and that it probably wouldn’t even be publishable now, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I did see what the Newbery committee and the children of the late 20’s and early 30’s saw in Hitty, though. It’s not really my type of book, but there were some charming moments, and the idea of following a doll’s journey throughout a century is a nice one. I would say that today’s children would have trouble liking this book, but It’s hard for me to argue that, because I actually had a rising third grader check it out last week, and love it. I guess there is a niche of kids who like this sort of thing. I wasn’t one of them. I would have found it boring, and frankly, I still do.
I give it two out of five Newbery Pies.