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.)