The ninth winner of the Newbery award was Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field.
This rather charming book purports to be the autobiography of a small antebellum wooden doll, the titular Hitty, who is carved out of mountain ash-wood by a traveling peddler.
Preoccupied with her fine clothing and her dignity, Hitty goes through a variety of more or less unrelated adventures, from being taken to a crow’s nest by a mother bird, to staying a year in a barn with mice, to being worshiped as an idol by island "savages," to being used as in an Indian fakir’s snake-charming act, to serving as a portrait-painter’s prop, to touring as an antique at a doll show. With each passing year she learns a bit more about people and their various cultures and foibles, and loses bit by bit her vanity.
It’s thus broadly similar in content and plot to Kate DiCamillo’s excellent 2006 book The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane, but with a less modern (obviously), less mature attitude toward love and loss. Any lessons learned about human nature in Field's book are clearly secondary to the whimsical fantasy of the sentient doll. It's certainly an enjoyable adventure story, full of twists and turns, suspense and drama (and how telling that in order for the protagonist in such a globe-trotting adventure, normally the province of boys alone, to be female, it must be a wooden doll). It's also often wryly amusing, so fun to read for an adult as well as a child.
I don't want to belittle the book for what it's not, which is the most ignorant style of review. But I think the premise offers a good chance to parody, reflect, or magnify human nature through observation and allegory, a chance that Field missed in favor of a simpler tale of the episodic ups and downs in a wooden doll's life. Perhaps this is just an aspect of the book's being dated; modern children want and deserve deeper messages in their literature, even in their fantasy.
Recommended for children: Yes, it's a fun story.
Recommended for adults: It's hardly a bad book, but I can't think why an adult would want to read it unless he was reading all the Newberys in chronological order for some reason.