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.
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.”
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.
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.