Why American Girl Dolls & Their Stories Are Important To Girls

Why American Girl Dolls & Their Stories Are Important To Girls

A Little Bit About My Daughter

My daughter loves her American Girl (AG) dolls.  Part of the admiration comes from the awe that she feels when she shops at one of the AG stores.  She saves her money all year so she can purchase all sorts of  outfits for her dolls (many of which can be purchased with the matching outfit for her).  It all seems a bit materialistic until you look past the purchasing component and see the truth:  it’s the dolls’ stories that keep my daughter coming back for more.

My daughter, K, has 4 American Girl dolls.  If that seems like a lot, we understand.  But she wound up winning Kit and her best friend, Ruthie, in a school raffle, so we don’t feel as guilty as we might have had K’s grandparents purchased all 4 of the dolls separately.

K & Marie Grace are ready for their night on the town.

What we enjoy about K’s dolls is that each one has a story associated with it.  The purpose of these characters is to show girls today that they can do great things if they believe in themselves and in each other. From a Native American girl living in the Northwest in 1764 to a contemporary girl who uses her strengths to turn challenges into triumphs, the characters in every story illustrate the power of determination, imagination, courage, and hope—the same spirit that inspires modern American girls. It’s also a great way to learn American history!

Historical Characters Make Learning About History Fun

The historical characters’ stories give girls a glimpse into important times in America’s past. Each character’s story is told in a series of compelling books, focusing on such themes as family, school, holiday, birthday, summer, and winter adventures.  Each book has vivid descriptions of time period that the  girl lived in, identifies the variety of challenges a girl living in that specific time would encounter and, finally, how she resolves these conflicts.  Ultimately, the books seem to ignite a passion for life and enthusiasm for “girl power.”

The Samantha Doll or, for me, the One That Got Away

Can You Believe It?  We met AG Writer, Valerie Tripp!

Realizing how much we love the AG stories, you can imagine our excitement when K and I were invited to The American Girl Place (Chicago) by Priceless Chicago and Digital Megaphone to meet the writer of many of the American Girl books, Valerie Tripp.  Ms. Tripp has written many of the initial dolls’ stories including the six books in each of the Felicity, Josefina, Kit and Molly book series, as well as three of Samantha books. (Note: Samantha is my favorite doll and historical period.)

Priceless Chicago treated us to a delicious brunch where we heard Tripp speak about a variety of topics.

The author looks a lot like KIT!

Early in the presentation, Tripp told the audience that regardless of the time period, the first step to writing a successful AG book is to ensure that the reader actually cares about characters and wants to befriend the character. Only then does Tripp start researching the time period.  She seemingly injects herself into the time period and will read about the it, travel to the various places where the action takes place and even take cooking lessons if knowing how the character cooked and ate is an important part of her story.

If the time period forms part of the characters’ personalities, then the specific challenges she faces shape the rest.  According to Tripp: “The goal is to distill major social problems in the period. The characters are an allegory or metaphor for the major social and political problems.” For instance, when she created Kit Kittredge, the author wanted to communicate the girl’s “grit and determination to overcome the economic hardship” of the Depression era.

One of the significant messages of all AG books is: nothing stays the same and that change is inevitable (Remember: You can’t change the wind but you can adjust your sails?)  The books gently help girls understand they have everything that the need to face and overcome their challenges. In the Chrissa, stories, which were not written by Tripp, the author tackles the topic of  bullying. Through Chrissa’s story, the reader learns about the different facets of bullying (isolating and threatening the victim) and follows the main character as she is bullied and ultimately learns how to face her oppressor and solve her seemingly insurmountable problems. (Even as an adult, I learned a few lessons from reading the Chrissa story.)

As Tripp told the audience “The stories are gentle life lessons, humorous, sad, and an honest portrayal.”

What a relief to be aware of places (and authors) whose professional focus remains on ensuring that our daughters have all sorts of positive role models from all different time periods who share essential personality traits like integrity, honesty, humor and an overall appreciation for being a girl.




All Hail The Mighty E-Book

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

At 9:15 p.m., along with “Mommy, I just threw up in your bed” one of the last things a mother wants to hear from her child is “Mommy, I forgot to do my homework and it’s due tomorrow!” Despite reminding her to finish the assigned reading this week, my daughter “forgot” to do it because, to be quite honest, she hates the reading assignment: Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

Most parents have been in a similar situation. Children frequently and conveniently “forget” to do their homework particularly when it is a subject that they despise, like Ramona. I can remember finishing an assignment or two at the breakfast table before school started while my mother berated me for procrastinating. So, despite the fact that she should have already been sleeping, I told my 8 year-old daughter that she had a choice: either stay up tonight and finish the assigned chapter or I would get her up early the next day. Either way, that kid was going to show up for class with the dreaded reading done.

And that’s when she hit me with the “kicker”: “But Mom, I can’t find the book!” Of course she couldn’t; she HATED the book and the assignment. Losing the book was all part of the plan, right?

While she got ready for bed, I looked frantically all over the house and in my car for her missing book. Guess what? I couldn’t find it because, my daughter sheepishly later acknowledged, that she may have left it at school. Another 15 minutes wasted.

Now I faced a real dilemma: in the Chronicles of Mommyhood (as I like to call it) this was an opportunity to teach my 8 year-old a lesson about responsibility. Despite the fact that she didn’t want to do the assignment, it was still due. We all have things that we dread doing in life. LESSON, LESSON, LESSON….bah blah, bah blah, bah blah.

If this was the early 80’s, for instance, my mother would have yelled at me for being so irresponsible and admonished that I deserved whatever punishment the teacher felt was appropriate for my misdemeanor. With that train of thought, if I was my mother, I would feed my daughter to the lions (aka her teacher.) But if this was the 80’s there would also be no such thing as a Kindle, iPad or other e-reading device.

I have a Kindle and with a flick of my magic wand (the internet, a computer and amazon.com) I could make this problem go away for my young child. As I stood at the foot of K’s bed, I thought about the swimming analogy: do I do nothing which means letting her sink and hope that she figures out how to swim (i.e. learns a lesson) or do I hold her up because I know that there is a tool available to me now that wasn’t available when I was a child?

What would you have done if you were in my place?

I suggested to K that I download the book on my e-reader and no one would be the wiser. But I also took advantage of the moment to remark that she was “Darn lucky that your mother is SO smart and willing to help you out of a jam!”

My reasons for helping K were not totally altruistic. It’s important that I reveal that there was another reason for my willingness to commit a “Mommy Crime” and possibly rob my daughter of her future integrity; I needed to observe a Bat Mitzvah on Saturday at our synagogue and I knew that if I helped K that she would be obligated to come with me. I gave her the choice: “I’ll download the book and help you out but then you have to come with me on Saturday. Or if I don’t download the book and you deal with your teacher, you’ll get to chill at Grandma’s Saturday morning.”

Guess what? She asked me to download the book. She read three pages tonight and promptly fell asleep. So much for helping her out. Note: She still has to go to the Bat Mitzvah. Before I downloaded the book, I made her “pinky swear.”

A promise is a promise after all, right? And I have integrity after all.