Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

A doll made of an apple twig and a hickory nut is the protagonist of Carolyn Sherwin Bailey’s Newbery Medal-winning fantasy. Miss Hickory’s survival in a bird’s nest through a cold country winter combines brisk, ironic humor with touches of whimsy and poignancy to form a story with provocative and contradictory implications about motherhood and gender roles. Lively black-and-white drawings by Ruth Gannet illustrate the main event of each chapter, with special emphasis on Miss Hickory’s interactions with the various animals whom she encounters.

Miss Hickory opens as the doll’s crusty friend Crow informs her that the farm house is being shut up for the winter and that she must plan to move from her corn cob house under a lilac bush to a sturdier and warmer shelter. Initially disbelieving, Miss Hickory soon finds that she has indeed been forgotten by the departing family and must accept Crow’s help in finding her a new home in an empty robin’s nest.

A series of loosely connected adventures ensues. Her neighbor Squirrel inspires both scorn and fear as Miss Hickory alternately mocks him for forgetting where he has buried his nuts and considers the temptation that her own head might present to the hungry animal. She makes friends with the Hen-Pheasants, whose husbands have deserted them for the winter, and organizes them into a ladies’ aid society. At Christmas, Miss Hickory follows a solemn procession of animals to the...

(The entire section is 504 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story takes place on a New Hampshire farm, and most of the action occurs close to where Miss Hickory lives. The barn and the surrounding...

(The entire section is 94 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Images in Miss Hickory are more important than plot development, although the plot does take a surprising twist. Bailey's phrases such...

(The entire section is 160 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Social issues are not a focus of this book. Bailey focuses on personalities, suggesting that everyone must be true to their inner natures,...

(The entire section is 121 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Miss Hickory often lacks initiative. What options did she have after Chipmunk took over her home? What would you have done if you had been...

(The entire section is 287 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What is a scion? What is its purpose? Find out more about how apple trees are grown and maintained.

2. List the difficult...

(The entire section is 147 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Bailey divides her writings into two categories: those about children in early America, and those set in the countryside around her hometown...

(The entire section is 100 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Commire, Anne, ed. "Carolyn Sherwin Bailey." In Something About the Author. Detroit: Gale, 1978. The editors have compiled a long list...

(The entire section is 86 words.)