Anybody remember the American Girl books? When I was younger I remember reading them over and over. I was constantly rereading the stories about Felicity, Addy, and Samantha. I also remember wishing I owned the ones about Kirsten and Molly. All of these girls were American, and each lived during a different time in history. Besides the books, you could buy the dolls themselves, with matching clothing and furniture. My cousin had Felicity’s tea-table (she grew up during the American revolution) and it came with an actual tea set.
These books were a great way to teach young children about the diversity of America. Not only did they introduce topics like slavery (Addy grew up during the Civil War, and was a former slave) and immigration (Kirsten was originally from Sweden), but they also made readers aware of things like racism, poverty, and discrimination. I don’t want to just emphasize the negative topics however; these books also told stories of the importance of family, the necessity of overcoming obstacles, and the beauty of true friendship.
The girl I tutor gets the American Girl catalogue and when I flipped through it, I was shocked. What I remember fondly as wonderful stories with matching dolls, has now become so commercialized that its appalling. The books don’t even seem to be featured in the catalogue. Instead of the dolls in their original time period clothing, what’s pushed is modern ski clothes, or party dresses. Want your doll to go horseback riding? There’s gear for that! Perhaps you want your doll to keep her schoolbooks in a locker. You can buy that.
Rebecca, Julie, Ivy, Emily, Kit, Ruthie, Nellie, Elizabeth, Josephina, and Kaya are all new characters that I don’t remember from my childhood. Of them, perhaps Josephina and Kaya look like they have potential to be as influential as the original five girls. Josephina is living in New Mexico around 1824, while Kaya is a Native American in 1764. There are also “contemporary” American Girls: Chrissa, Mia, Nicki, Jess, Marisol, Kailey, and Lindsey. Are any of these as good as the originals? I don’t know. What saddens me is that some of the wonderful original dolls have been “archived” or “retired”. Obviously this all revolves around money and sales, but I wish it didn’t. The most recent American Girl? Gwen Thompson- her claim to fame? She’s homeless. Critics are quick to point out that no money from Gwen’s sales is going/will go to the truly homeless.
Is there anyone out there who has read, or has children who read, these newer American Girl books? Are they still as good as they used to be, or has the American Girl series lost its magic?
Have no idea what I’m talking about? Check out: Samantha (New York, 1904), Felicity (Virginia, 1774), Addy (Pennsylvania, 1864 ), Molly (England, 1944), or Kirsten (Minnesota Territory, 1854), along with the rest of the “American Girls“.
Missed my last post? It was: REVIEW: “THE LEAP” BY ANNA ENQUIST