Title: Miss HickoryMiss Hickory
Author: Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
Illustrator: Ruth Stiles Gannett
Pages: 123
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

A Newbery winner about a wooden doll…

The Story.

Miss Hickory cannot believe the news Crow has just been telling her. Great granny Brown is closing up her house for the winter and moving to Boston! But this means that Miss Hickory will have to move out of her lovely corncob house and find a new home! She is scared, but with the help of her friends she finds a new house.

Will Miss Hickory survive the winter? And will she come to like her new home better?

Discussion.

When we first meet Miss Hickory, she is persnickety and snobby. She is distressed by the prospect of the Browns leaving, primarily because it will inconvenience her, and secondarily because it means she will have to rely on her neighbors for help (an idea which she does not like). However, as the story progresses, she loosens up and comes to appreciate her friends.

Of, course, the entire story is based on the premise that Miss Hickory (who is made out of a stick and has a nut for a head) can move and speak with those around her. She eats food and makes clothes for herself. There are no magical elements.

There is one scene, however, which is inexplicable. It occurs on Christmas Eve after her friend, Squirrel tells her that something wonderful happens in the barn every Christmas Eve at midnight. Miss Hickory is skeptical and refuses to go, but after she witnesses a large group of animals trooping to the barn – including some animals who are dead relations of Miss Hickory’s friends! – she too hurries to the barn. She is too late to see anything, but it is heavily implied that baby Jesus was in the crib.

Probably the most disturbing aspect of the book to me was the ending. Throughout the whole story, Miss Hickory’s friend, Squirrel teased her about eating her head (which is a nut). What a cute little joke. IN THE END HE EATS HER HEAD!!!! AHHHHHH! And after he eats her head, she gropes and stumbles to her home in the apple tree, climbs to the top of the tree, and finds a “resting place” – she grafts herself into the tree! The last we see of her, she is conjoined to the tree at her neck, and her arms and legs have buds on them.

Now, none of this was all that violent. There’s no blood or anything – after all, she was a twig. But it still felt a little twisted.

Conclusion. So-so. Miss Hickory progresses morally through the story, but the ending leaves much to be desired.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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