Tag Archives: American Girl

American Girl Introduces Five New Characters for 2017 (Logan, Tenney, Felicity, Z, and Nanea)+ “Perma” Panties

16 Feb

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Greetings readers!

Generation Next is back to talk about American Girl and their reveal of not one, not two, but FOUR new characters, as well as one comeback, released or coming out in 2017.

Many of these dolls have been rumored for months now within the American Girl community, but I thought instead of just making a review about “rumors”, it would be best to wait until the reveal of the products.

American Girl has not only released pictures of their newly released and upcoming products, but they have a live stream that goes into a little detail as well.

Check that out on Facebook!

There are plenty of changes American Girl, LLC is implementing this year. The changes, for many, are both exciting and a little overwhelming. I’ve heard the new changes are due to there being a new CEO at American Girl, LLC. I’m not sure her history with the brand prior to becoming “commander-in-chief” at the company, but I hope she actually understands the base of the brand enough to drive it forward.

Because so many changes and new products are hitting us all at once, I’m going to break down each release in detail (based on what we know so far about them), and I will be giving my opinions and my feelings on all the new releases.

I already did my review for Gabriela McBride, so I won’t go into any more detail about her.

My review will cover, in the order of release:

  • Tenny Grant and Logan Everett
  • Felicity Merriman
  • Z. Crew doll
  • Nanea Mitchell

Tenney Grant and Logan Everett

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Tenney Grant is an aspiring singer-songwriter from Nashville, Tennessee who is trying to form her own band and get her music out into the world. Logan Everett is a boy who joins her band and they eventually become friends.

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Synopsis Book 3: Tenney & Logan are a harmonious match onstage, but behind the scenes, they are totally out of tune. With her recording contract signed, Tenney is ready to make the album of her dreams . . . she just wishes she didn’t have to do it with moody Logan Everett! They’re supposed to be songwriting partners, but Logan doesn’t even seem to be trying. Just when it looks like they’ve found their harmony, Logan suddenly disappears, and Tenney wonders if he has bailed on their act. A couple of months ago, Tenney would have gladly taken the opportunity to go solo. But as she learns more of Logan’s story, she begins to wonder: Do she and Logan need each other-and their music-now more than ever before?
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So we’ve got the story and we have pictures from her collection. Here’s my spill on it.

Dolls

Tenney

Tenney Grant is blonde with freckles, brown eyes (like Julie), and it looks like a little lip gloss…Her hands are molded to appear like she’s holding an instrument, which is different from older American Girl dolls.

I personally think that Tenney Grant is a cute little blondie! I love the freckles and I think she looks cute in her little outfits. She sort of reminds me of Caroline.

However, I’m not really interested in investing in another contemporary line outside of Girl of the Year. My budget isn’t wide enough for the leap.

And the fact that I have Caroline makes me less enthusiastic. There is really nothing that is compelling me to buy her. She just isn’t unique enough for me.

My thing is…this new line isn’t offering anything to me that Girl of the Year can’t offer. I get she’s targeted to older girls, and I’m sure her books will be interesting enough. However, as far as the doll goes, I just don’t understand why she couldn’t have been a Girl of the Year character with a male best friend…

Is she meant to only last one year and be gone like Girl of the Year? If so, why make this new line?

If she’s meant to last longer, that would be a plus. Girl of the Year has fans crunching and saving so that they can purchase a doll within a year. If this doll lasts a while, it would give fans a chance to purchase her. Still, the overall design and feeling of the line could easily be placed in Girl of the Year at a later date.

And now, we’ve got more modern characters than we need.

American Girl, LLC told us on facebook that this pair of dolls will be a part of a contemporary line that will be released at “random” and will just be a “side” thing. At this point, it doesn’t look like they will have a better name than “Contemporary Characters”, if this line really gets an umbrella name at all (considering the cover of her books just say “Tenney”). So there really isn’t any distinction between this line and Girl of the Year really.

That aside, we are expecting to get more dolls for this line throughout the years at random, much like how American Girl Beforever started. It won’t be a set date, like Girl of the Year.

With that being said, I don’t know if I’m happy that she is the first character for the line. She’s blonde, she’s trendy, she’s a singer. It just feels cliche, like your typical debut character.

I’m not even a huge fan of her clothes (not really my taste, though there is mix and match potential). I know what she’s wearing is the trend, but I’ve seen better from American Girl.

A lot of American Girl fans do not like Tenney Grant’s face tan and her “unflattering” freckles. I personally like the doll. I’m just not on board with the idea overall. I just don’t see the point.

The contemporary dolls are supposed to be more appealing to older girls in middle school. Girl of the Year has already jumped on the “middle school” bandwagon with Gabriela (who is in sixth grade). I don’t understand what this character is offering girls differently from the GOTY line.

Some fans also don’t like her lips, which appear “shiny”, like she’s wearing lip gloss. I personally don’t see anything wrong with shiny lips, as many 18″ dolls are carved or created with shiny lips. It does give her a more sophisticated look and it does make her appear different from the classic “American Girl”. But I don’t see the harm in makeup that subtle.

Despite how cute she is, I think I would’ve rather had Jaya, her Indian best friend, as the first debut character for the line. The only thing really driving this line so far is Tenney’s “best friend” doll, Logan.

Logan Everett

Logan is American Girl’s first ever 18″ BOY doll (they had a boy character in the Bitty Baby line). This has been rumored for awhile for those who have been in the “know”.

I’m going to be honest though. When I first saw Logan, I thought, “Finally, a girl character who doesn’t look like a stereotypical girl!” I would’ve been really excited if Logan had looked like this and been female. Talk about breaking gender norms.

But no. It’s actually a male character.

For many young male American Girl fans, this is a dream come true! Finally, there is a boy that represents them!

According to American Girl, LLC, fans have been begging for them to release a boy character. In this world, where diversity and inclusivity have become themes, this is American Girl company’s step forward.

As I said in my article about American Boy dolls before, I do believe that boys desperately needed dolls that mirrored kids their own age and were good, positive role models. Why should the girls be the only ones included?

However, I’m going to, once again, address the concerns I had back then. I’m not sure if having a boy character is good for the brand.

Eat me alive if you want to. American Girl is called American Girl. Why was American Girl such a big deal for girls? It wasn’t just because it provided wholesome dolls for girls with educational books and positive messages, something fashion dolls didn’t offer. It was also because most of history, prior to American Girl, was told from the perspective of males. Most of the heroes honored in our history books are male. Look at Marvel and DC comics, and you will see that even most of our modern heroes are male. Most action-adventure stories, like Harry Potter, have a male lead.

American Girl offered heroes for our little girls.

Nowadays, we do have more movies and shows about female heroes. But back in the 1980s, when American Girl first arrived, there were hardly any women taking on the “hero” title.

American Girl has been one of the first companies that brought these young females to the front. The contributions of women, especially little girls, may have been insignificant among other historical toys or books, but not in American Girl.

With the inclusion of a male doll in this brand, I can see why some American Girl fans are concerned that this brand will branch out. Some people have already expressed that they would like American Girl to honor mostly girls.

And this is not to say that Logan is outshining Tenney. However, with the success of Logan, will American Girl be considering more boy dolls in the future? We may start to see more male dolls in the future.

Some young male fans were hoping for historical boy characters instead. I think if Mattel creates another branch called ‘American Boy’ that might work. That way, it wouldn’t take away from the American Girl brand.

There’s another reason why I would’ve preferred another branch for American Boys.

  1. With Logan being a “best friend” to Tenney, he is nothing more than an accessory, like the other Best Friend characters were.
  2. With him being a male, it does leave room open for “romantic” playtime among children.

Logan is basically just “the boy”. He doesn’t get his own book. None of the books are told from the perspective of a male with a male author. He is an “accessory” to Tenney’s story, meaning he can be archived with Tenney if the situation calls for it. He is a background character, still not considered important. I mean, I guess I can just be happy they created a boy character at all. But this is one of the ways Mattel, the mother company to American Girl, has ruined doll lines before.

He seems meant to appeal to girls and not really meant to be designed specifically for the male fans, which I think is cheating our young male fans.

I also get the feeling he will be confused as the “boyfriend”. American Girl swears up and down that he is not a boyfriend character. I don’t think we should look at every male-female relationship as romantic, but it’s kind of hard to convince young girls that “shipping” two people with one another is wrong. And that is exactly what I think will end up happening with the two of them. If not while reading the story, just during playtime. What’s stopping a girl from pretending Logan is Tenney’s boyfriend? And so, here we end up with Barbie and Ken…

They kind of look like Barbie and Ken, too.

And why did they have to start off with a white male character? It would’ve been great if he’d have been Asian or something different for a debut. If they started this as a line of boy dolls, there may been a more diverse range of male characters.

It’s good I’m not too interested in this line. I’m happy there is finally a boy doll, but I’m just not happy with where he is placed.

The last issue I have with Logan is his AGE. Logan is said to be FOURTEEN (14) years old, according to American Girl’s facebook! He’s way older than the most of the target demographic. He’s not a kid; he’s a TEENAGER. His doll actually gives the illusion that he’s a 10 year old. I don’t know, but having crushes, whether on Tenney or not, wouldn’t be too far away from this character…

Story

I really get a ‘Taylor Swift’ vibe from the story. It seems cute enough. I’m especially interested in the story with her best friend Jaya. I wonder  why she didn’t get a doll…

I was hoping there would be a “singing” theme eventually with Girl of the Year, but now that the Contemporary line has it, that’s out for me.

Still, I was hoping the contemporary line would touch on the deeper issues affecting middle schoolers, something Girl of the Year has failed to do.

Remember those books by American Girl called The Care and Keeping of You? That book really helped girls as they were growing up and reaching puberty. I was hoping this contemporary line would be a good guide to giving advice for girls. But no. These books are just other forms of Girl of the Year.

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I read a preview of Tenney’s books, and honestly I just felt like I was watching a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon show. It lacked any real substance. But it’s cute enough.

Unfortunately, because the series is told from the girl’s perspective, Logan is given a bad-boy, mysterious, and moody personality that seems unflattering. He doesn’t seem created to directly relate to boys, but rather seems created to better appeal to females. The personality is reminiscent of male characters that are often found in female-driven literature…and these characters often end up being the “heartthrobs” (the moody Edward from Twilight is an example). They are designing a male ideal here, not really giving boys a good role model.

Unfortunately, what I’m seeing and reading are not enough for me to be interested in Tenney or Logan. However, I would definitely buy Tenney and Logan as a gift for kids. Just not for my collection.

One thing is for certain: We can call bull on American Girl claiming they were”moving from the best friend strategy”.

Felicity Merriman, American Girl’s Revolutionary War Character

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Can I give an outplayed “Yaaasss”? Guess who is back (again) out of the archives? Felicity Merriman!

They must have wanted to tie in with the new “Hamilton” popularity or maybe jump in on Shailene Woodley’s recent popularity (considering her first acting role was as Felicity).

Felicity is a long-time historical favorite. If you don’t remember, she represented the Revolutionary War era. She was our fiery, spunky, independent red-head (before Maryellen arrived).

I wrote about her archival, and I can’t believe I’m now writing about her return.

Remember when she was retired in 2001? Then she returned in 2005 and was retired again. Now, she’s back again. They really just can’t decide what to do with Miss Merriman!

Felicity is coming with a new Meet Outfit and a new book layout.

Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of either one. I like her blue dress better than her lavender one, considering the quality seems better, but something about it is unflattering. I think I’m just biased to her first Meet dress. It just felt more authentic, more natural. This new dress looks more like it was made for a Disney Princess character.

Still, I’m giddy one of my favorite characters are returning and I’m happy the American Revolution will not be forgotten in the Beforever line.

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My only gripe is that she will be released with Tenney, which takes away her shine. The website didn’t even update her “Play” page, she’s barely on the front home page, and she’s not boldly announced in the Shop section either. So far, she’s only come out with her new Meet outfit, which isn’t much fun…

I also heard she doesn’t actually come with a shift or hair ribbon, which is really cheap.

The worst part is she’s only being sold online and at the three major stores in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles.

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Z. Crew Doll

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Z. Crew started off as a stop-motion series (created by American Girl) about a Korean American “character” doll named Suzie Yang who creates her own vlogs online, often using her “American Girl dolls” (usually minis) as themes. Obviously, American Girl company was inspired by actual American Girl fans who often make their own stop-motion videos or often make videos in general using their dolls. It definitely put all of those people out of business…

Well, now, Z is getting her own doll! (Though technically, this doll has been around awhile now. #40 anyone? #64 anyone? #30?) And I suppose this is American Girl’s response to more diversity and that push for an Asian American Girl doll?

Here’s why this character does not suffice:

  1. She is not the historical Asian character we asked for.
  2. She is another contemporary character, competing with other contemporary characters.
  3. Most of her clothes from the series are borrowed from their Truly Me line (their line of customizable contemporary dolls…)

I’m sure most of us already have some items similar to what American Girl is offering for her or will buy the clothes and put them on dolls we already have.

Most people have not been asking for a modern Asian American doll. Most people felt pretty satisfied with Jess (even though she was part Asian). But we have been asking for an Asian character for Beforever, one that wasn’t just an “accessory” doll (like Ivy was to Julie), and one that has her own story and moment in history. And what did they give us? This.

I’m not going to say I hate this character. I think she’s really cute and unique. Her stop-motion series is cute. But again, why so many contemporary lines? And why all at once, in the same year?

The content and themes being pushed by American Girl for these random contemporary lines could’ve gone over well with Girl of the Year. I really don’t understand the point of the Z. Crew line. Maybe the stop-motion series is so popular, kids wanted to buy dolls inspired from the series. But I’m just not that in love with the character to feel compelled to buy her. And if you already have #40, it’s a wrap.

She’s also getting a book, for whatever reason, and a live-action movie (and cringey Amazon Prime is doing it again).

I wonder if Z’s whole crew is joining her in this doll line…That might make things a little interesting. Still, I can only see myself purchasing Z after making other major purchases…

Z is supposed to come out in April, but already she has quite a bit of competition this year. Why would they release their only Asian American character amidst so much competition? It’s not fair. They are setting this doll up to fail.

But for anyone interested, I think she will be a unique and diverse addition to any contemporary line, considering they don’t have many Asian American characters, and none that are Korean at that.

However, I don’t think she will last more than two years. Stop-motion can get old after awhile. There needs to be something else driving this line.

For anyone interested, her doll is set to be released April 27, 2017.

Nanea Mitchell, Hawaiian Character from the 1940s

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The rumored Nanea Mitchell has finally been unveiled!

And yes, she is just as I feared: ANOTHER 1940s character.

Nanea Mitchell, 1941
She’s a Hawaiian girl who does her part to help and heal during wartime. 

Nanea Mitchell learns the importance of generosity and sacrifice throughout her stories. 

Set for a fall release is Nanea Mitchell, a Native Hawaiian girl growing up during World War II in what was then a U.S. territory. “Nanea’s stories teach girls that kokua—doing good deeds and giving selflessly—sometimes require sacrifice.” NBCNews

Her stories take place around the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many speculate that she will live in Oahu, Hawaii, close to where the events occurred.

I am excited to learn more about Hawaiian history and culture. I am interested in learning how this story differs from Molly’s (if it does). Don’t get me wrong.

But I don’t care how beautiful Nanea is. I don’t care how touching her story may be. All of that superficial crap does not disguise the real problems I see. I still feel cheated.

1.Instead of giving us a new era in history, American Girl decided to “rinse and repeat” an era. 

I mentioned before that it felt like American Girl was running out of era ideas. Nanea, to me, is proof that they really couldn’t find any other different eras in history. I said this before: I’m not interested in reading about WWII twice. Especially not before we touch on eras that have never been touched on by American Girl. I’m still waiting on the 1920s. And I don’t care how diverse this makes the brand, history is a priority of mine. I care more about diverse and accurate eras in history than I do about the color of dolls.

Unlike other fans, I don’t like this brand for its dolls alone. I was drawn to this brand for the history. And I am eager for American Girl to introduce new history to kids. We’ve talked about WWII with Molly. What about eras we haven’t talked about, like Western Expansion? The Roaring Twenties? Early Exploration (Pilgrim)? I would even go with the 1980s. I get there are many perspectives in each era in history, but we haven’t even touched on ONE perspective in those eras I just named. Let’s double back AFTER all ground has been covered.

This story of Nanea’s even sounds similar to Molly’s (pulling together, lending a hand, helping the war effort, and making sacrifices). I can’t say her descriptions sound original or unique. Felicity carried unique themes like Loyalty and Independence, something not shared by other American Girls. Nanea is carrying the same themes Molly carried. And that’s just not very appealing to me.

You know what’s going to end up happening with most Molly fans? They will just be taking Nanea’s collection and putting it with Molly. And if Nanea’s collection is bogus, which something tells me it will be, she will be archived soon and replaced with the original Molly.

Or it could be the other way around, where Nanea is bought more and just dumped with Molly’s collection. Either way, the lines are now interchangeable and less unique.

Fortunately, Nanea is cute enough to go over well. And if they focus on her culture, instead of over-emphasizing WWII, I may be able to deal. Otherwise, I’m sorry. I can’t get excited about an era I already know so much about.Well, I can’t get as excited as I could if this were a new era in history.

My other concern is this: Will this new “rinse and repeat” method continue? Are they going to make two girls each era? I don’t know if I would like two 1960s characters. For starters, the character would more than likely be white. Then, if she’s really popular, she would diminish the importance of Melody significantly (because we all know she would sell better).

The “doll a decade” thing worked so well because one doll could get so much in her collection. Now, with two, one doll will get the things the other won’t, just to promote them differently. There is still a possibility Molly will come back. After all, she does have a big picture on the front cover of American Girl’s new Story of America book. American Girl is still selling her books and movie. Because she’s still being promoted, there has to be a line between what we can find in Molly’s collection and what we could find in Nanea’s, just to make them both uniquely appealing.

Nanea isn’t going to get as many “WWII” types of items like Molly did considering her era takes place much earlier before the war began to really affect everyday life. The things Nanea does get will probably look (or will actually be) exactly like Molly’s! Since I already have Molly, I’m hoping there will be some differences. Hopefully, the setting and culture (Hawaii) can provide some unique items that can last longer than two years.

I’m also hoping that there will be new 1940s references within the story. Molly already had a hula costume, so I don’t care much for a Hawaiian get-up. Molly introduced us to strap-on skates, newsreels, girl scout camps, patriotic songs that were especially sung at school, the popularity of tap dancing, the Three Stooges, the Red Cross, rationing, victory gardens, Halloween, snow globes, and so much more. I really don’t have a desire to hear about any of those things again. I don’t even want to hear a similar manner of speaking. Molly and her friends often said “Gosh” and “Golly” and such. I don’t want anything redundant. I will end up comparing everything to Molly.

I had the same problem with Cecile and Marie-Grace back in the day, but I warmed up to them. Maybe I will warm up to Nanea.

2. Is she the “Asian American” character we asked for? It doesn’t seem like it.

Most of us asked for a JAPANESE AMERICAN character, possibly, but not definitively, living in Hawaii. Yes, I heard all of the requests. Most people did not actually ask for a Hawaiian character. In fact, most fans hoped internment camps would be apart of the story.

I’m not sure of the actual ethnicity of this “Hawaiian” character, but it doesn’t seem like she will actually be “Asian”. Nanea is a Hawaiian name. Mitchell is an Americanized surname. The worst case would be if she was a mixed half white, half polynesian child. That would be the dumps.

American Girl has not truly been answering our call for diversity. They’ve been skating around the real issues. Even with Gabriela McBride, they’ve just pulled out an old retired doll, came up with some random modern outfits, and released her. That’s not really developing a Girl of the Year.

And this “Hawaiian” character is not exactly what fans wanted. Most of us wanted an Asian character.

Now, I do know some people who are excited about Nanea because they missed out on Kanani and may have wanted some pretty Hawaiian doll with a tan to add to their collection. I was not one of those people. So, I hope she has some Asian blood running through her veins. Otherwise, I will boycott this doll like the plague.

American Girl has already come out with a doll that brought out Hawaiian culture and that was Kanani. But which Asian character in American Girl truly brings out Asian culture or history through her collection? NONE. This is why we have been asking for an Asian American historical character,

They only made Nanea because they wanted to lighten the perspective of “internment” and they wanted to bring a doll out with a tan, hazel eyes, and wavy hair. Not truly to add diversity, but to cash in on Disney’s Moana’s success.

The thing is there are more eras they could’ve done the Hawaiian historical character. They could’ve made her from the 19th century, during the Annexation period and European-Asian contact, during the reign of one of the last queens in the west coast, among other interesting historical events. She would’ve really looked like Moana then.

But there are not too many eras that truly affect Asian Americans in the USA. WWII would’ve been the perfect era. It was an era that truly affected Asians, and the Asian struggle during the period has been glossed over largely. Instead, they gave us Moana, excuse me, Nanea.

And most people are probably thinking that there’s no difference between an Asian and Hawaiian…The ignorance of it all. I’ll bet American Girl thought the same thing when they made her.

3. She seems like a modern doll.

When I first saw her, I swear I thought she was another contemporary character. There is nothing “staple 1940s” about this character. When we look at Felicity, we know she’s colonial. When we look at Kit, we know she’s from the 1920s or 1930s. When we look at Maryellen, we know she’s from the 1950s. We know these things based on the clothes. That was the most fascinating thing about the fashion. The fashion reminded us of the era.

I do not see “history” when I see Nanea. It’s almost like they specifically designed her to look more “modern” so that she could appeal to the next generation. She looks like a “modern version” of the 1940s.

Her name isn’t even very historical either (even if a few people did have it in the 1940s). Nanea didn’t become a popular name until 2005. It’s like they chose the most “easy to pronounce”, remind-me-of-Moana name and slapped her under the label of Beforever. It is ridiculous. If people were thinking that American Girl is moving away from their historical emphasis, this would really validate their fears.

There used to be a time when the dolls were created as a compliment to the book series. This is why there were more accessories and dresses, and why there were pictures. This was also why it made sense to design a doll an era. Everything that was in the books was made for the dolls, and most of the books’ “timeline” lasted two years at times, allowing for a multitude of items to fill a decade. Samantha’s stories began in 1904 and ended in 1906. Molly’s stories took place from 1943 to 1945. Kirsten’s stories took place from 1854 to 1856.

Nanea is mostly supposed to cover 1941 and maybe a scrap of 1942. Just like Marie-Grace and Cecile, who only covered 1853. And trust me, the books felt very short and rushed as a result.

Now, the stories are mostly made to compliment the dolls. They create the dolls first, and then add or fix those details in the books later. The history is an afterthought now. Stories are not nearly as important as pretty dolls.

I feel like this story was thought up to create a pretty Hawaiian character, one that replaces the popular Kanani, not truly to add more history to this line of dolls.

4. She looks like a Wellie Wishers Doll or Another Brand’s Doll Entirely.

I really thought Nanea was from another brand. Her face mold looks different. She almost feels out of place in the Beforever line up. She doesn’t feel American Girl. Therefore, it’s hard for me to warm up to her. She somehow looks older…She doesn’t have the sweet, young look the other dolls have.

She really looks similar to a Wellie Wishers doll. It cheapens her a little bit. I hope they also reduce the price.

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5. She’s another character with wavy hair and hazel eyes.

More hazel eyes? Really, American Girl? If I see another hazel-eyed character, I’m going to snatch myself bald.

What happened to the days when American Girl characters had the features and combinations of real girls? What happened to the days when a girl living in the 1940s would actually be depicted with the braids most girls had in that era in time?

Nanea is over-glamorous. She just doesn’t feel like a natural little girl from the 1940s.

Maybe this is why I’ve always been so attached to my Molly. She had glasses. She had pigtails. She was unique. She was simply irreplaceable. Nanea is another hazel-eyed, wavy-haired glamor girl.

But what can we expect? She’s pretty and photogenic. She should sell well to the fan community.

Oh well. Maybe she will teach me something different about Hawaii and WWII (hopefully). I won’t know until she is officially released.

She will officially be released August 24, 2017.

I’m hoping she has some Asian background, and if not, I hope they design an Asian American character set in the 1980s or some other time period in the future. It’s time for American Girl to stop skating around. Nanea is nice and everything, but she’s not going to make up for the Asian historical character you lack.

Permanent Underwear

I may sound a little negative in this article. I am feeling rather negative. Perhaps I’m a little frustrated with American Girl because of their push for the new “permanent underwear” for some of their dolls.

If you haven’t heard, American Girl announced that the new “permanent underwear” will be sewn on to all of the new modern dolls as well as some modern Beforever characters (Maryellen, Melody, and Julie, fan favorites).

This is very infuriating. This takes away the whole point of doll playtime, which is really to mix and match fashion. And if someone wants to change their doll into a different era, like into the colonial era, they won’t be able to do that without looking at the permanent underwear.

American Girl claims they are doing this because they’ve noticed that some kids have been losing their dolls’ underwear.

“We assure the design change was made only to make play easier for some children and to ensure the underwear cannot be lost.”

But it doesn’t make play easier for all children, does it? Just some. And it definitely takes away the value for collectors.

This move to ensure children don’t lose the “underwear” is utter cow manure. It’s like saying, “We want to sew all of the clothes to the doll so the kids won’t lose the clothes”…It defeats the entire purpose of PLAYTIME. Children WILL lose items at times. They will mix and match or replace those items with something else. That’s the fun of it. It simply makes no sense to sew them on the bodies.

They may be trying to move toward “modesty” with these dolls. Some people feel that American Girl is teaching girls to be ashamed of their bodies by sewing on panties.

If they are trying to move towards modesty, it’s the stupidest move they’ve ever made. Honestly, the dolls’ bodies never looked realistic in the first place! They don’t have female parts underneath their clothes. They have a soft, stuffed torso overall.

What this really does is put restrictions and limitations on playtime. And it tightens everyone’s pockets.

American Girl claims it shouldn’t stop girls from mixing and matching the fashion, but it does, especially if you want your Julie to become “Elizabeth” from Felicity’s books or something of that nature.

It also can ruin photos and make the bathing suits on top of the underwear look chunky and awkward.

People speculate that American Girl’s introduction of the “beautiful” Nanea this early in the year is a “distraction” to coerce American Girl protestors into buying their dolls, despite the fact they are ignoring fans’ complaints. Some people have been persuaded to make one more purchase, but will only be buying Nanea and none after. Some will only be buying the dolls that don’t have the underwear (which puts Maryellen, Julie, Melody, and all the Truly Me dolls in a bind). Many are boycotting the purchase of all dolls until this is fixed.

It has really come to the point where the quality is being called out. Unfortunately, American Girl is confident that their dolls will sell, no matter what they dish out at us. And they have every reason to be. Tons of people on Youtube and beyond can’t resist Nanea.

And there are tons of parents and feminists that support the “sewing” of the underwear.

Me, personally, I could look past the new boxes and the new zip ties. I was a little more incensed at the new vinyl for the mini dolls. Many American Girl fans could not handle any of those changes.

But I draw my line at sewn-on underwear.

On facebook, Aryn Bedrick said, “The point is that AG is supposed to be authentic and geared towards intelligent play. The target age for these dolls is 8+. This move makes you look cheap and generic, like many of your other recent changes like the move to zip ties from strings, and packaging that requires clothing be attached with plastic tags that screams ‘throw me away’ instead of ‘save me for your future daughter’ as your original, classy packaging did. You are losing the things that set you apart in this industry.”

Many people consider a lot of these new body changes, packaging, and zip ties as a sign of disloyalty to the brand. I personally felt that the whole idea of Tenney, Logan, Z. Crew, and Nanea was breaking “loyalties” as much as the other new changes. But American Girl has been going down that road for the last couple of years, especially after the launch of Beforever.

The funny part about it is, for me, I’m more angry that Nanea Mitchell is sharing a decade with my beloved Molly. I’m more angry that another more interesting era was not chosen. I’m more angry that there are now more contemporary characters in this brand than there needs to be.

I don’t like the movies being produced out of Amazon Prime. I don’t like that the Wellie Wishers face mold and packaging are taking over the brand. I don’t like that Logan is Tenney’s sidekick and/or “boyfriend”. I don’t like that Z. Crew is so boring as a doll. I hate the new bodies with the new zip ties.

And the icing on the cake was the sewn-on undies.

I’m sorry this article is so negative. I tried so hard to be positive in my spirit, and maybe my views will change with time. But right now, my collection days feel very close to coming to a close. I’ve been with American Girl since 1997, and maybe it’s just time for me to retire. American Girl really needs to fix what’s broken and leave the fun stuff alone.

Well, that’s all I have to say. Leave a comment and let me know what you think about the new releases and all the different changes.

American Girl’s Girl of the Year 2017: Gabriela McBride! + ‘Girl of the Year 2017’ Is Set To Last More Than A Year!

31 Dec

In West Philadelphia, born and raised

On the playground is where I spent most of my days…

You readers like that ‘Fresh Prince‘ reference right there?

That’s the first thing that came to mind when I heard about American Girl’s newest Girl of the Year 2017.

If you don’t know what American Girl is:

American Girl is a premium brand for girls and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAT, www.mattel.com), a creations company that inspires the wonder of childhood. Headquartered in Middleton, WI, American Girl offers an inspiring world of dolls, content, and experiences that nourish a girl’s spirit and help develop her strength of character. Best-selling lines include Truly Me™, Girl of the Year™, Bitty Baby™, WellieWishers™, and the classic historical character line BeForever™. The company sells products through its award-winning catalogue, on americangirl.com, in its proprietary U.S. experiential retail stores, and at select specialty retailers nationwide. Outside of the U.S, American Girl products are sold in specialty boutiques at select Indigo™ and Chapters™ in Canada and El Palacio de Hierro locations in Mexico City. By inspiring girls to be their best, American Girl has earned the loyalty of millions and the praise and trust of parents and educators.

If you’re a fan of the American Girls, but have been out of the American Girl loop for awhile, you probably don’t know why I made that reference in the introduction. Let me introduce to you GABRIELA MCBRIDE.

girl-of-the-year

Gabriela is a true talent who gets creative for a cause. She is considered a quiet, creative girl growing up in a family of artists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (exactly why I made that Fresh Prince reference). Her mother is especially passionate about the performing arts. Her mother is founder and director of the arts center Gabriela loves and her dance instructor.

Gabriela is also interested in the performing arts (particularly tap, hip-hop, and ballet) and poetry. Aside from dancing and poetry, Gabriela also helps run a sandwich shop.

Gabriela has a reason she’s so quiet: She struggles with stuttering.

In the first book, Gabriela is said to be “going into the 6th grade”. Still not sure of her age, but she may be the “oldest” Girl of the Year produced.

Gabriela is a true creative talent who uses the power of poetry to help her break down barriers and overcome a personal challenge with stuttering.

Gabriela inherited a love of the arts from her parents, especially her mother, but spoken word poetry is becoming her own passion. Although Gabriela often finds herself in a battle with her own words because of her stuttering, she discovers that her poetry, filled with wit and honesty, helps her speech flow more easily and gives her the confidence to find her voice to help save her beloved community arts center from being torn down.

American Girl Press Release

Despite Gabriela’s struggles, she’s still witty, honest, and courageous!

Her book cover and synopsis are out. Are you ready? {insert drumroll}

gabriela-book-1

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? Yes, believe it. Finally, finally American Girl has released their first African American Girl of the Year character!

After seeing the name Gabriela trademarked, most assumed the character would be of Latin/Hispanic heritage. It turns out it was set aside for an African American character.

Gabriela is set to have a series of FOUR books (yes, four, 4). The first book will be out in January. The next one comes out in March. The other two will be released throughout the rest of the year.

Book synopsis 1: Gabby loves expressing herself — especially in the dance studio — but lately, poetry is becoming her art form of choice, and for good reason: Gabby struggles with stuttering, and spoken word poetry helps her speech flow more freely. Still, compared to how confident she feels on the dance floor, speaking up can be scary. When the city threatens to close her beloved community arts center, Gabby is determined to find a way to help. Can she harness the power of her words and rally her community to save Liberty Arts?

Teresa E. Harris is the author and it is her first time writing for American Girl.

*This will be updated as more information is released.

And now, what all American Girl fans have been waiting for…

The reveal of the doll!

 

melodys-pjs

More items and one of her books will be available Spring 2016.

Gabriela’s doll is really adorable in these pictures, but…

This is where my excitement diminishes. I came to the realization that she’s not just a doll of color. I came to the realization that if I look beyond her color, I have very mixed feelings…

 

Gabriela McBride is considered by many of the American Girl Fan Community to be the LAST GIRL OF THE YEAR.

For those who don’t know, there have been rumors that American Girl plans on ending the Girl of the Year line after Gabriela (possibly to make room for their rumored Contemporary line). I’m not sure how true the rumors are, but it is a FACT that there will be changes to the Girl of the Year line in 2018.

In American Girl’s press release, they stated:

Additional Gabriela products and books will be available starting in spring 2017, and—for the first time—the new Girl of the Year collection will be available for a full 12 months and beyond.

On facebook, American Girl has confirmed that they have plans to release their next girl of the year in 2018. So does this mean Gabriela will be available along with the new Girl of the Year?

American Girl said they don’t have plans to retire the GOTY line, but they’ve been known to hold back from revealing a retirement or archival before.

american-girls-message

 

One part of me is happy that she will last long enough for me to save for her collection.

Another part of me is sad that I may not have a Girl of the Year to look forward to next year. It was sort of an American Girl tradition.

And another part of me is just a bit frustrated with the design of the doll and her collection…

Here…at this moment…I have to analyze this objectively.

This Girl of the Year is really mediocre as a doll in comparison to dolls prior.

Here I am, being the Negative Nancy. Call me a self-hating black woman, a coon, whatever. I’m know I’m going to hear it all. I don’t care. I can’t fully accept her as a “great” Girl of the Year character, not under the current circumstances (with this possibly being the final GOTY doll).

If you’re an American Girl fan, you can probably better understand where I’m coming from. Newcomers may find her to be a great doll addition. And she isn’t garbage, but she has flaws.

I fell in LOVE with Gabriela’s story. I love the fact that she loves poetry and how she uses poetry to overcome her own disability. I think she’s a good role model for girls. I fell in love with this story so hard, even though I haven’t read it all, I want to buy two copies.

However, I have my hang-ups.

First off, this doll is #46 from the Truly Me line. She doesn’t just look like #46. She IS #46.

46

Truly Me #46

I always thought that doll was beautiful. I was sad when she was retired. And I am personally happy to see her return (especially because I don’t collect the Truly Me dolls). But I know plenty of people who said they already have this doll. This means there will be quite a few people who aren’t interested. It always leaves me uneasy when I hear that people don’t want to buy a doll of color. It’s especially bad because Gabriela is the only African American character (in 15 years) to have been produced (or rather “picked”) for the line AND she is supposed to remain in the line through 2018.

Some fans have expressed that American Girl, LLC has put a lot of effort into making the Caucasian American Girls look different and unique, but clearly didn’t do the same for Gabriela. Some feel they didn’t really plan on making an African American character for the line. Some people feel the company rushed production of her because the demand was so high. Basically, they pulled out a retired doll, put clothes on her, gave her a story, and called her Gabriela. Some people feel Gabriela is recycled and doesn’t reflect the same effort the company has put into former Girl of the Year dolls.

I can see their point. Maybe they have given up caring because they wanted the line to come to an end. Maybe they recognized the popularity of #46 and wanted to make her into a character.

Regardless of the reason, this part has been disappointing for most fans.

I don’t have #46, so I feel compelled to get Gabriela, but I wish she was designed in a way that would compel others to want to buy her.

The second problem I have with Gabriela is the fact that she is a DANCER.

I have to be fair about this. I talked about Isabelle being another dancer, I talked about Lea being another tropical princess, so I can’t let this slide.

This Girl of the Year is supposed to last for more than 12 months, she is the ONLY African American character, and you stick her with one of the most unoriginal themes? It doesn’t hurt the story, which incorporates poetry and overcoming disabilities, but it certainly hurts the collection.

Marisol was a tap dancer, ballet dancer, Mexican folk dancer, and jazz dancer. Isabelle danced ballet and modern dance. And now Gabriela! How many dancers does Girl of the Year need?

Because other “dancing” dolls came out, I’m not really interested in the majority of Gabriela’s playsets or accessories.

american-girl-marisol

isabelle-barre-set-hr

What would I need with two ballet barres?

I just can’t get excited AGAIN about another dancer when American Girl has done the theme TWICE before.

I know there are other people out there feeling the same way. And I just don’t like the idea that the first African American character in this line is not unique enough to be a MAJOR sell-out this year.

The final insult is that American Girl has stated on their facebook page that they don’t have major plans to release a movie for her! It takes at least a year to create a movie, so if they haven’t thought of one now, I don’t know if she’s ever getting one!

Still, she’s going to be around in 2018, so only time will tell. But she clearly seems slapped together.

Despite all of that, there are some American Girl fans who are excited about Gabriela. Some are even willing to buy her even though they already have #46! Some people like her dance collection the best out of the three. And some people are new to American Girl and missed collecting the other dance items.

Since Gabriela will be out more than one year, at least none of us have to worry about her selling out within one year. People will have the opportunity to save up for her and have a chance to get her between this year and next year.

That wraps up my review of the new Girl of the Year.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you all think of the new Girl of the Year and my article!

Nanea Mitchell, the Hawaiian 1940’s Character: American Girl Beforever Running out of Eras in History?

30 Oct

Hello, readers! This American Girl fan is back with a topic I’ve been meaning to discuss. It has come up several times among American Girl fans and I just wanted to share my thoughts on it. My views on this topic may be a bit controversial, but I’ll go ahead with it anyway.

I’ve been thinking more and more about when I should end my American Girl collection. My American Girl collection has gotten large enough and my pockets won’t be able to take investing in the brand forever, especially because the prices appear to climb higher every year. XD I’ve decided that I’ve got to find out where I should stop and just add to the dolls and collections I already have.

To add, the latest in the Beforever collections have just been…well, boring. I’ve been really disappointed with the recent American Girl Beforever items. I was disappointed with Maryellen’s lack of “character-specific” items. For example, they didn’t give her anything scientific, artistic, or Davy Crockett-related or something like that; there weren’t any items related to her interests in the books. With American Girl, LLC’s trend of changing up the books, they probably are avoiding book-specific items as much as possible. They had to rewrite many of the books to omit the descriptions of old outfits just so they could revamp the line for Beforever…

Melody was better about it, but she is also suffering from a rather small collection (in comparison to what I’m used to from the 1990s, I guess). I had hoped for something a little more interesting with Melody (like a 1960s salon with nail design or something, as mentioned in the book).

The Melody movie didn’t satisfy my inner American Girl, either (though it did satisfy me as an African American). It just didn’t feel like Melody’s story. It felt like the story of another Melody from the same time period…

Overall, I just feel unimpressed with American Girl Beforever lately.

So, as I was contemplating where I would end my collection, and contemplating which eras I’m looking forward to the most, I thought about this…American Girl basically covered most of the major eras that interest me. The only eras left untouched that I have any interest in are the late 1800s, the 1920s, and somewhat the 1980s…

1920-girls-fashion-01

1920s fashion for girls

For an American Girl fan like me, yes, American Girl is running out of eras. Depending on the kind of fan others are, this may not ring true, especially new fans, as some characters may have been archived before they became fans.

However, it still is crystal clear American Girl is running out of MAJOR periods and eras in American history to cover, no matter what fans are willing to accept. Still, there are a couple of minor ones they can touch on (though they don’t interest me much, as I feel many of the current American Girls have covered the gist of most of them).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_of_United_States_history#Named_eras_and_periods

In comparison to most countries around the world, the USA is still a relatively young country. We don’t have the vast amount of eras that other countries have. Sure, if we focus on every particular event in American history (as opposed to eras, like American Girl has been marketing their dolls for), we can find a whole slew of history. The original American Girl History Mysteries books did that.

But that still doesn’t stop the fact that American Girl is running out of MAJOR ERAS inUSA history. Focusing on particular events will just produce thousands (exaggeration here) of dolls that dress very similar and may even look similar. I suppose if you can deal with it with Girl of the Year, you can handle it with Beforever. GOTY characters are back to back, and they somewhat manage to make their characters’ outfits look relatively different (though in the past, fashions didn’t change as frequently as they do now). At the same time, I never feel like I have to buy a new Girl of the Year every year. I can easily buy the new GOTY fashion for another GOTY character I got previously. I’m not a major Girl of the Year fan though, and maybe that’s why. That’s aside from the fact that there isn’t enough diversity in the line, but that’s a subject for another day…

List of American ers in history https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era

List of American eras in history
https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era

List of era in American history continued. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era

List of eras in American history continued. https://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era

Kaya was in the major era of Exploration and Colinization giving the Native American persective. A pilgrim perspective is possible (1) as that can’t be touched on thoroughly in Kaya’s stories.

Felicity covered the Revolutionary era. There is no need for another perspective because most all perspectives were brought out in her stories.

Caroline covered the era of the New Nation. There’s only so much to really highlight here.

National Expansion & Reform was covered by Josefina, Kirsten, Marie-Grace and Cecile. A girl expanding west is possible (2), but she may look similar to Kirsten. Josefina also lives west herself, and also touched on western expansion directly in her story, as Americans began to take over Mexican territory.

Civil War and Reconstruction was covered by Addy. There is no need for another perspective. A confederate perspective would be quite controversial. Marie-Grace and Cecile touched on southern life positively in the 1800s without getting into the “Civil War” controversies regarding the South.

The Industrial Age is left open. Hopefully, American Girl stops focusing on modern history long enough to realize this open opportunity. (3)

Progressive Era to New Era, WWI, American Imperialism were touched on by Samantha and Rebecca.

The 1920s is open. (4)

The modern eras were covered by Kit, Molly, Maryellen, Melody, and Julie. And they have characters of various perspectives as well. Other perspectives are possible within other additional American Girl books (like the mysteries or Best Friend books, for example).

The 1980s can be covered as a modern era. At least it would make for interesting fashion, accessories, and maybe even playsets. (5)

Looking at what we have above, we don’t have many major eras to work with. I can read many different books about many different events, but can I buy a doll that is a “twin” of another when it comes to style and playsets? No. Not interested. Especially with four eras basically untouched.

After all the major eras are covered, I suppose American Girl will just rehash eras from different perspectives. As a history fan and American Girl fan, I have no interest in rehashed eras. 1) I’m too attached to the characters that represented the eras in the first place. No one can replace my Felicity, Molly, Kit, Addy, etc. 2) The American Girl books have already given many different perspectives already. Why would I want to hear the same information twice, from a different perspective, with just slight differences? 3) There are only certain Major Eras that can truly give two different perspectives in a way that actually makes the story feel different. If characters sound too similar to each other, in the same era in time, you might as well just make them friends of the characters already designed. Especially if the books are supposed to stretch over two volumes.

Each American Girl has many different perspectives in their books. Example: Even though Felicity is from a Patriot family, she had her grandfather and Elizabeth to represent the alternative perspective. In Samantha’s stories, she was the wealthy girl and Nellie represented an alternative “Irish immigrant” perspective and the horrible conditions factory workers endured.

I really didn’t have much interest in the Best Friend stories, as I felt I learned enough about their friends from the main American Girls’ own books.

I just have a hard time reading about the same subjects twice. It was one of the main reasons why Changes for Rebecca bored me. It was because I already read about factories in Samantha’s stories. Sure, Rebecca’s stories touched on the actual Labor Movement, but the shock factor of the factory conditions was lessened because I already read about it. Good thing there was enough differences between 1904 and 1914 to add other differences to the Rebecca series. That’s not the case with every major era. Some eras were so major they overcame daily life. WWII was one of those eras.

This is why I’m not extremely interested in the Hawaiian 1940’s character. For those who don’t know, there is  another 1940’s character from Hawaii set to be released. Originally, the rumor was that she was Japanese, but with the recent trademarked name “Nanea Mitchell”, it seems she’s just  going to be”Hawaiian”.

Nanea Mitchell

I don’t have any interest in another 1940’s character, Japanese, Hawaiian, or any other. I feel, in my heart of hearts, that Molly fulfills my 1940’s needs. Though I would love more diversity, I just wouldn’t want any other doll from that era. There are so many untouched eras that I would be more excited for. I’m just being honest. The 1940’s feels exhausted for me. To me, Molly has represented what most Americans on the home front have experienced, especially from a child’s perspective. My grandparents are African American, and they STILL related to the way Molly lived during the war, after I shared the stories with them. My great-grandmother even showed me a movie that she found about growing up in the war, a movie she felt described the home front perfectly from her perspective, and much of the things mentioned in the movie were highlighted in Molly’s stories. Sure, my grandparents only experienced slight differences, like racism and discrimination, but they mostly lived in black communities and shared the same patriotic spirit (surprisingly).

Whether in obvious ways or small ways, Molly’s stories have really given a complete introduction to the era from a patriotic, very “all-American” perspective.

Now, most people tell me that they would LOVE an internment camp doll. I would NOT. If anyone has any knowledge of internment camp history, (and from my experience, many American Girl fans surprisingly don’t), I don’t think they would really think an internment camp character would be a good idea. First of all, it was a shameful time for not only Americans but for the Japanese Americans especially. It’s not like the end of the Civil War, where many slaves like Addy were running away from their masters in droves, enlisting in the war and fighting for freedom, and rebuilding their lives as free people of color, overcoming obstacles. It’s not like Melody who was able to use her strengths to overcome prejudice, racism, and discrimination, but also focused on the good times for African Americans, especially in the music industry. The Japanese Americans needed strength to endure the camps, sure, but they couldn’t do much to fight their fate. They lived like this for the whole war to boot. Some didn’t even live in houses, being placed in temporary shelters such as stables and barns. It just wasn’t a really good time for the Japanese Americans. It doesn’t highlight the strengths of the people.

It’s similar to the idea of touching on the European takeover of the Native Americans’ land and the placing of Native American children in boarding schools…It’s not the best light to show the Native Americans. This is why American Girl went with Kaya, before European take-over and influence…A time that showcased the “strengths” of the people and how they were thriving long before European influence…

Story-wise, internment camp history may be very interesting (rather sad) for an intermediate or advanced reading audience, maybe if someone wants to go into detail about WWII, but I don’t think an internment girl’s collection would be much different from Molly’s, and possibly would be worse. Many Japanese Americans couldn’t bring their toys, furniture, or heirlooms with them because they could only bring what they could carry to these camps. A few were able to bring their kimonos, though…

An article with Color photos of Life in an Internment Camp

Relatively, the Japanese American character would dress similar to Molly on a day-to-day basis. As far as playsets go, can you really imagine the bedding and furniture? Not very nice as a miniature size for playtime. I’d rather them bring Molly back if they want to touch on WWII again, like they did with Samantha and are doing with Felicity.

Lastly, there were no internment camps in Hawaii. The American Girl character would have to be relocated to a different state. This is also why the original rumor seemed a little shaky to me.

Internment Camp Locations and other info

If you really want to learn how it felt to live in an internment camp, just look up the REAL facts:

Japanese Internment Camp Facts

Some fans suggested that some of her family members be taken into an internment camp and she just stays on the island with the rest of her family and tells all of us about WWII on the Hawaiian home front (because not all Japanese Americans were taken into these camps). While this may be interesting to some people, I have no desire to hear about the war again, not even from a different perspective. I feel that Molly’s extra stories have the potential to bring that material to the fore. Just like one of Molly’s mysteries, A Spy on the Homefront, she could easily have another story about life in Hawaii on the homefront. That would satisfy my mind and my pockets. It doesn’t require a two-volume series.

Any outfits that come with a new 1940s character will just be placed on my Molly (unless it is Japanese or Hawaiian specific, which is unlikely with an internment camp girl). It saves money.

A Hawaiian character’s bedding and clothing may be more interesting than a Japanese internment camp girl, but probably still will only have slight differences from Molly in many respects. I just wouldn’t be compelled to buy everything because I know that not only do I have a ton of items from Molly’s 1990s collections to make up for it, but much of it was superior in quality to what I’m seeing come out of American Girl Beforever recently. All of the Hawaiian collection would just go to my Molly’s “Hawaiian vacation”. Lately, American Girl has opted out of character-specific items. I doubt the Hawaiian Beforever character will have many items that reflect her individual personality. And what would the average girl in the 1940s be interested in anyway? Possibly very similar interests to Molly.

Hawaiian girls in the 1940s

Hawaiian girls in the 1940s

I only feel compelled to buy new dolls if they are from unique eras in time. I just can’t get excited about an already-covered “Era” in time, no matter the events in the books or ethnicity. I suppose this is mostly because I love American Girl for the history and the tiny models (toys) that reflect complete eras in history. I’m just not into it just because they have dolls, with face molds, eye colors, and period fashion. I think representation is important, but I think girls of color should be represented in fresh eras in history first. Accurate history is a priority for me.

So I’ve decided that I will end my American Girl collection when all the major eras in history have been covered. If Beforever begins to repeat eras in history, I will just not buy it. That’s my resolve. The ones I numbered are the last couple of dolls I’m willing to collect. After that, I will just add to my collections.

My hope is that an Asian American character comes from the 1980’s. That would make this fan happy. 🙂

I’m interested in hearing the opinions of other American Girl fans. Where do you plan to halt your collection and just add accessories, if at all? What eras do you look forward to most? Are you interested in eras-done-twice? What do you think of the Hawaiian 1940’s character? Do you believe American Girl is running out of eras in history? Leave me a comment and give your opinion.

Black History Month For Children: Learning Black History Through the American Girl Beforever Collection

1 Feb

Martin Luther King’s birthday has passed, and black history month is here, and so the focus may be on “black pride”.

Many children today really don’t understand their history, or rather don’t care about it, whether they are African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian, Native American, Jewish,  etc. It’s a shame that I even had to witness African American children fall asleep during Dr. King movies. I’ve witnessed this recently at a school. They really take for granted the privileges they have obtained thanks to him. MLK would roll over in his grave if he could see how some of our young African American children are today.

The American Girl dolls and books to me are a great way to educate children about their history in a way that relates to them. Through the eyes of three nine to ten year old girls, children can learn to value their history, to be proud of themselves, and to work hard to achieve great things. I’m proud to announce that American Girl has added three African American characters to their Beforever line: Cecile, Addy, and Melody.

I’m not telling you to go out and purchase an expensive doll for black history month. But maybe you could read a story with your child, or get them one of the books from the library. Some parents don’t realize how important it is for children to know their history, but knowing what others have gone through helps them to develop admirable and likable qualities, such as compassion, empathy, understanding, and intelligence. They realize that everything isn’t going to be handed to them, and that it is up to them to make a future for themselves, no matter how challenging life gets. Children who understand history learn to appreciate what they have and to be content. Every privilege we have today-modern technology and political/social freedoms-we have because someone from the past worked so that we could. We also look to the past to learn for the future.

All of the characters in the American Girls series have something to teach kids. This month, we’ll be focusing on the African American characters.

Meet Cecile

Cecile‘s stories take place in 1853, centering around New Orleans, Louisiana during the worst outbreak of Yellow Fever in the city. While the story is fiction, many of the events in the stories really happened, such as the Yellow Fever epidemic and the city-wide Day of Prayer. Cecile is a wealthy French girl of color living in the French Quarter. Cecile shows a new side to African American history. While most children know of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, many do not know that there were rich black girls living prosperous lifestyles in the South. They are often not taught about the rich black culture that has existed in the USA prior to the Civil War. Cecile’s story focuses on the struggles she faces trying to help her family and her city find healing during a traumatic epidemic that hushes the lively spirit of New Orleans.

Though Cecile’s stories are shared with Marie-Grace, a poor white girl, Cecile still has a significant role in each story.

There may be several things that may concern readers when observing reviews of the stories. I always say consider what you can take from the series rather than focus on the negative. Perhaps I can give some suggestions that may make the introduction to these American Girl books easier.

“I don’t think this is good for black history month. Her stories are shared with a white girl.”

Cecile’s stories teach several things about black culture, even though her stories are shared with a white girl. While most of the world thinks most black people were either poor slaves or oppressed individuals who could only find poor housing and poor education, Cecile’s stories introduce a whole new side to black culture. Denise Lewis Patrick herself said that while researching, she found it surprising how freely people of color interacted with other races and how some black people lived in lavish circumstances.

Having a white girl share her story further teaches girls how different things were for black people in New Orleans before “Americans” entered the city. Though places were still segregated, people often mingled together at public events. And black people often had no strong desire to mingle with white people because it truly was “separate but equal”. Schools, ballrooms, stores, and other places were just as amazing for black people as they were for white people!

Slavery still existed, and of course slaves felt inferior. But wealthy black people owned large plantations in New Orleans full of slaves as well.

Through Cecile’s friendship with Marie-Grace, both girls learned to set aside their differences and see each other for the “content of their characters”. This is not only a good lesson for black girls, but girls of other ethnic backgrounds, too. I think this was exactly what MLK would’ve wanted. I think the series still teaches black history while bridging the gaps between two different races.

Some people may be concerned that Marie-Grace outshines Cecile in these stories. I can assure you that isn’t the case. Three books are dedicated to each girl. And Cecile plays a huge role throughout Marie-Grace’s stories as well. Just seeing how Marie-Grace reacts to Cecile can also give insight into the character and the time period.

“This book seems to gloss over the actual struggles blacks have experienced in the USA.”

Black history doesn’t only consist of struggle and hardship. Just as it’s important for children to recognize how hard black people fought for equality, it’s important for children to know that they can rise above any oppression if they work hard enough. It’s important for black children to recognize that they also have a rich history with a rich culture.

Many black people may not be able to relate to this era in time. That doesn’t the series has nothing to offer children. This is an opportunity for them to actually learn.

I think one of the most interesting things about Cecile, the main character, is that she speaks French. This series shows that African American girls of that time period were well-rounded and quite cultured. Who knows. This may encourage other black children to learn French. Even though these stories don’t teach about racism largely, the books have many other things to teach children regarding black history and culture.

But I would like to point out that racism is discussed, along with other forms of prejudice, throughout this series.

“Cecile, the main character, acts a little spoiled and self-centered.”

The American Girl stories, like any stories in the world, are full of a diverse group of characters. Of the three black characters offered in the line, Cecile stands out. I think it’s great that she isn’t “Miss Perfect” in every way, just like real girls. But throughout the series, Cecile learns to be more thoughtful, compassionate, and generous. Children today are pretty privileged in comparison to many girls who lived in the past. We all are! Children today don’t have to work. They can go to school. Most children can ask their parents for toys, games, I-pads, cell phones, new clothes and shoes, and other luxury items. They are very much like Cecile, where the smallest things can mean a lot to them. I feel that Cecile relates to black children in this way.

I think Cecile’s stories can help children of all backgrounds step outside of their comfort zones and learn about other cultures. These stories promote tolerance and diminish racism and cultural ignorance. By promoting these values, we establish peace. The next generation can move into the future with open minds if we help them open their worlds. Why not start with a story like Cecile’s? Keeping this in mind, I think her faults are forgivable.

Events like the Yellow Fever brought different people together, even those who were unlikely to be friends. This shows that all of mankind has the ability to pull together when it matters most. During disastrous events like Hurricane Katrina, another event that struck New Orleans hard, and other natural disasters, children can relate to the struggles Cecile and Marie-Grace had, but can also find healing much the same way the girls did. These stories can help young girls cope with these events through child-size perspectives.

Reading along with the American Girl curriculum guides can really help teachers and parents as they read the stories to children: Cecile’s Book Guide

Meet Addy

Addy‘s stories take place from 1864 to 1866, centering around Raleigh, North Carolina and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Civil War. While the story is fiction, many of the events in the stories really happened, such as the Civil War, Robert Lee’s Surrender, and The Grand Review. Slavery also existed, as we all should know by now. Though the Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to have freed the slaves in 1863, the year before Addy’s stories, much of the South saw themselves as a separate nation. So they ignored the Proclamation. Some slaves didn’t know about it because they couldn’t read about the news and no one would share information with slaves for fear they would run. But word eventually got around, prompting many slaves to try and escape their plantations. Many slaves were eventually freed by Union soldiers. Addy was raised a slave girl during this time. She and her mother planned a daring escape North in her stories. Addy’s stories focus on her life as a slave and her struggles as she and her family try to build a life for themselves as newly freed people of color.

There may be several things that may concern readers when observing reviews of the stories. I always say consider what you can take from the series rather than the negative. Perhaps I can give some suggestions that may make the introduction to the American Girl books easier.

“My child is very sensitive. Some of the things in the stories are too harsh for young children.”

Think about this: While your child is too “sensitive” to hear about real events, little girls like Addy actually had to suffer through torture and pain during this era. No one was around to “shield” them. Many children today go through such things, especially in other countries. “Sensitive” children are the ones that can make a difference in the lives of those suffering. I don’t think it would be right to try to “protect” a child from learning about events that can help them become a mature, compassionate adult. It’s best to protect them from things that will actually make them bratty and spoiled or physically harmed. Addy’s stories may hurt your child, but that shows that the stories reach your child. It’s not hurting them in a negative way. It’s teaching them to appreciate their freedoms. It will inspire the child to think outside of the box and grow a love of tolerance rather than hate. More than likely, your child knows wrong from right, and with you reading the stories with her or him, you can explain how some of these things are wrong.

While there are a few sensitive moments throughout the series, there are many happy and positive moments, too. There are also scenes that children can relate to. If you can get over the beginning of Addy’s stories, she really does have some happy endings.

“My child is still learning English. Addy doesn’t speak the proper English and I don’t want her speaking the way Addy does.”

“I can’t read this book. The vocabulary is horrible.”

Well we’ve reached a dilemma. How can someone teach the realities of slavery to a child when slaves didn’t really speak the way we think they should have?

This is exactly what has always been the problem and why black history is hardly taught in schools or anywhere else. And this is exactly what slave masters wanted long ago.

Addy and other slaves couldn’t receive an education, so they learned English by ear. Because of this, white people would look down on them. They wouldn’t hire them for jobs or listen to them when they spoke up on political issues. They sounded “uneducated”. So even though many were freed, they were still barred from living prosperous lives because they were looked down on. This was a part of racism.

I don’t think that parents should encourage such prejudiced attitudes by refusing to read Addy’s stories to their children. Instead, I think this presents an opportunity to teach your children how valuable education really is. After all, this is a history lesson, not an English one. History is taught through the accounts of many people, whether they spoke the way we think they should have or not. Even museums have journal entries written by people who don’t quite speak what we would consider “proper”. If your child already recognizes that Addy’s speech isn’t quite right, then there’s no reason to be afraid that Addy’s stories will make him or her speak “horribly”. They must already be at an age where they know the correct grammar. So, it’s your job to help your child understand Addy’s situation and help the child to understand that Addy really wanted to learn so people wouldn’t look down on her. And you can encourage your child not to look down on people just because of the way they speak, act, or dress. Perhaps you can also discuss how her snobby desk partner, Harriet, looked down on Addy for those very reasons, which further shows how hard it was for newly freed people.

The reality is that slaves lived this way. If you hide it from your child, you are allowing the child to grow up ignorant anyway. What would you rather do: Read about history and have a discussion about things the child doesn’t understand or prevent the child from learning about an important part of history to shelter the child from Addy’s “speech”?

Some time in your child’s life, your child may run across people who don’t speak English so well, even in school. There are no slaves in the USA today, but there are immigrants that come into the United States. Perhaps this can open up a discussion about helping students who don’t speak English well or a discussion about children who have been barred from receiving a decent education in the USA and worldwide. Perhaps you can encourage your child to develop a tolerant and empathetic attitude.

I want to add that while Addy and her family don’t speak English “properly”, the narration is quite solid.

Addy’s books are targeted to girls 8 and up, an age where they can understand the material, so reading it to any child younger would make things more complicated as well.

“Addy fits all stereotypes and makes all black people seem poor and uneducated.”

Let’s face it. Whether you hate or like stereotypes, this was the way many African Americans lived in this time. This isn’t like some Disney princess story. This is based on real history. Most of ALL black people came to America as slaves or indentured servants, and they all had to fight to be seen as “human” in the USA. There is no reason to be ashamed of that. It only shows how strong African Americans really were and only shows how far black people have come. To have endured such oppression and still thrive and survive is something we all should admire. There are other African American characters in the line that aren’t slaves, but we still have to face the fact that slavery existed. There’s no sense in brushing it under the rug, as the saying goes.

Though black people didn’t receive a “European-style” education, they weren’t dumb. They had to be very clever to outwit their slave masters and escape. Addy is very smart herself. She struggled hard to learn, but she worked hard and learned fast. She was able to rise to the top of her class in less than a month, even winning a spelling bee! She kept her mind sharp by solving riddles and guessing games. Her father was clever enough to devise a plan to help his family escape. Though slave masters tried to keep slaves ignorant, they couldn’t take away their ability to learn. Children today who struggle in school can learn from Addy’s example. Addy struggled but, by studying and asking for help, she was able to be a great student.

There are also black characters in Addy’s stories that have shown they were not poor and uneducated. Miss Dunn was a teacher and Addy’s desk partner, Harriet, was the smartest and wealthiest in the class. But should we look down on people who are poor and uneducated?

Addy’s stories teach girls not to judge people by outer appearances, status, or even the way someone carries themselves. By judging based on such superficial information alone, we create the same dividing lines that destroyed our nation during the Civil War. The North looked down on the South. The South looked down on the slaves. None of the sides could understand each other.

I really feel that through Addy’s stories children can recognize how lucky they are to have freedoms other children didn’t have. They can also learn tolerance. Help open your children’s minds by sharing Addy’s stories.

And she’s such a sweet girl to boot.

Reading along with the American Girl curriculum guides can really help teachers and parents as they read the stories to children: Addy’s Book Guide

american girl melody

Melody is American Girl’s newest African American character. Her stories take place from 1963 to 1964. Her stories focus on life in Detroit, Michigan during the Civil Rights Movement and 1960’s culture. While the story is fiction, many of the events really happened, such as The Walk To Freedom, The March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom, the Children’s Crusade, and the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. Famous figures make cameos throughout the stories, such as Langston Hughes, Diana Ross, Berry Gordy, and Martin Luther King Jr.

Melody is a normal, suburban African American girl. She goes to school, plays with her friends, and attends her church every Sunday, much like children today. She comes from a large family (Baby Boom) and shares a connection with each member of her family. Her stories focus on black people’s struggle for equality in the USA and the role children played in the struggle for civil rights.

There may be several things that may concern readers when observing reviews of the stories. I always say consider what you can take from the series rather than the negative. Perhaps I can give some suggestions that may make the introduction to the American Girl books easier.

“The events in these stories are too scary for my child.”

Keep in mind that the children in these stories have had to face far more than reading a book about harsh realities. Many of these children fought for equality bravely and deserve to be honored. Many of these children gave up their lives. Perhaps these stories can be inspirational for your child. Perhaps these stories can teach your child to appreciate the freedoms we have in the USA. Push your children to inculcate love in their hearts for people who are different. Instead of shielding them from reality, help them to cultivate qualities that can help prevent some of the tragic things that happen in the story.

Many children in the 1960s were like children today. They were innocent. But events happened that tore children’s lives apart. It’s better when their parents hand it to them with an open discussion rather than “protecting” them with false expectations and lies or worse-the power of “omission”. There are ways to teach children important events without traumatizing them. There are ways to teach them about history in an empowering way. But we can’t act like these things didn’t happen. It’s best to teach our children early, when they are impressionable, events that will help them grow into respectful, compassionate adults.

You can’t get any more censored than the American Girls. Of all the history books in the world, they truly give history in a way that doesn’t sugar-coat the truth, but also in a way that relates to children. Don’t be afraid to introduce harsh subjects to children.

Still, these stories are geared towards children who are 8 and up. Though events can happen to any child, keep in mind that is the target age.

“I’m apprehensive about reading the Civil Rights era. Most stories and accounts make all white people seem evil.”

White people may have this concern. I understand it may be hard to face such evil scenes mentioned during the stories. Everyone knows that this wasn’t the fault of all white people. Still, such hatred existed and such attitudes even exist today. Looking to the past is important because it helps us to fix our mistakes and create a better future for humankind. If we all worked together and overcame our differences, imagine what we really could accomplish as a HUMAN race. Of course, we don’t want to stay stuck on the past, otherwise we’ll never create a future. Still, by reading about the Civil Rights Movement, we learn to develop love and tolerance. That is the black story. Through all of the African American characters, love and tolerance are important themes.

Civil Rights wasn’t just for black people, either. Imagine how many white people couldn’t marry a black person, or an Asian person, or someone Hispanic, even if they were in love with them. Segregation and racist laws even infringed upon the rights of white people! There are many white people who suffered and died because they said something that seemed “tolerant” towards other races or spoke out against racism.

Other nationalities were also oppressed and benefited from the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Native Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish families, and those of Latin American descent. Black people were the leaders of the movement, but it wasn’t a movement that only benefited black people. This is why it was an important event in the USA.

Women may have also felt inspired by the Civil Rights Movement. Many women had to push through gender boundaries in the 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Many women today are still striving to make their mark on the world, so girls today can still relate to this movement..

Why did people have to fight for something so simple as civil rights? This is a question you could ask your children to make the topic easier.

Luckily, for you more sensitive souls, Melody lives in the North where legal segregation no longer existed. Still, racism did.

Aside from the topics on racism, though, Melody is actually a normal girl that I think any children can relate to. She likes flowers, music, getting pampered at a salon and spa, and spending time with her sisters. In fact, I think she and American Girl’s Maryellen, the 1950s red headed character, have a lot in common. If people didn’t make such a big deal about race, I imagine girls like the two of them could have been the best of friends!

Children may find that the events in Melody’s stories mirror some events they hear on the news in modern times. Melody’s stories can help children transition into serious subjects that they may even hear in their daily lives. Events in the story can help girls cope with modern day events that have affected children, such as the Sandy Hook tragedy or even some of the rioting going on right now on behalf of race and against police brutality or even the Charleston church tragedy. Children may have questions about such events, and Melody goes through some of the same trials children face today-only she lived in the 1960s!

Reading along with the American Girl curriculum guides can really help teachers and parents as they read the stories to children: Melody’s Book Guide

Even if you readers don’t want to jump on the American Girl book bandwagon, don’t forget to honor all of the black leaders who,through intelligence and courage, found a way to make life more free for everyone. If you ever want to learn about black history, now is the time to do so.

Though all of these girls come from different times, their feelings, struggles, and victories are very similar to children today.

Should American Girl Sell ‘American Boy’ dolls?

15 Jan

american girl logo

Every once in a while, someone will come up with the suggestion that there should be American Boy dolls created by the American Girl, LLC company.

The American Girl brand is well-known for their historical “Beforever” and contemporary “Truly Me” lines of dolls designed as little girls (different from Barbie, Ever After High, Disney Princesses) with inspiring stories. The brand has always focused on girls since 1986 when the concept was first released to the world.

However, recently, there has been a sudden “push” for toy companies to be more “inclusive”. This means that people are tired of the generic, standard dolls that have always been included among toy options. If the toy companies or some of their lines are directed to boys, people want them to include “girl” toys. If a company has primarily targeted their toys to girls, people want “boy” toys. If the collection only includes white characters, people want characters of other races. If the collection focuses on one country, people want other nationalities and cultures included. People want to diminish prejudice this way. They want to bridge the gap between differences and make things more equal and fair.

American Girl fans, since the 1990s really, have all been wondering if American Girl would include “American Boys”. Back then, that would’ve been considered a bad marketing move. But with the recent popularity of Frozen and My Little Pony toys among males, people are starting to consider it.

Along with that, with so many women pushing to for male-directed toys, like the “Nerf” toys, to include girl toys, “girl” toys are being questioned as well. Should we exclude anyone from enjoying these toys?

Although there’s nothing wrong with girls wanting nerf water guns or boys wanting an American Girl doll regardless of the gender direction (after all, American Girl doesn’t have to include American BOY dolls in order for boys to buy from the same brand and nerf toys never had to turn into Nerf Rebelle in order for girls to like Nerf products), some children want toys that represent them more personally.

Many of you might ask: ARE any boys interested in products like American Girl? Would American Boys sell to male audiences?

Though polls and surveys can answer this question more conclusively, from my experience, there are boys who like the American Girl dolls. Several readers on my blog, who are male, enjoy dolls such as Bratz and American Girl. These kinds of dolls appeal to males. While Bratz is edgier, American Girl has history involved with it, which relates to humans the world over. Many boys have walked into American Girl Place with their families in awe at the remarkable array of clothing and accessories, especially the ones that go with the historical dolls. American Girl’s Beforever line also comes with books that make history more exciting for kids.

There are many different reasons why many people want “boy” dolls.

  • People want “positive role models” for their sons

There are toys out there for boys (though many kids are consumed with tablets and video games), but they are all action figures. They all inspire courage and action in boys, but no valuable non-violent qualities like kindness and compassion. There are also hardly any boy toys where “little boys” are the main characters. So when little boys, at an impressionable age, walk into the American Girl stores, yes, they see dolls designed like girls, but they also see dolls that are designed to look like kids their OWN AGE.

  • Girls (and toy collectors) want “boy dolls”, too.

Barbie has Ken. Bratz have Bratz Boyz. Monster High and Ever After High have boy dolls. Frozen dolls have Kristoff (and Olaf). There are girls who have brothers or male friends in their lives and want to play out scenarios with their boy toys involved. People are also interested in how boys dressed in the past. It would make for an interesting buy for adult toy collectors as well, who lately make up nearly half of the toy industry’s consumers.

The only problem is most people like that American Girl dolls are empowering without having “boyfriends” or other male figures to help their line. Some people like that it’s a brand exclusively for girls. Most history books are mainly dominated by male figures. American Girl not only tells about history from the perspective of females, but from the perspective of little girls at that.

Some parents are also not comfortable with their girls playing “boyfriend/girlfriend”.

Still, males influence girls every day. It would still be interesting to have it in the brand for many people.

Okay, so how can the American Girl company accomplish this?

American Girl has always been for girls. That’s what the brand is popular for. How can this company introduce a “boy” line of toys without taking away what the brand stands for? People have had several suggestions:

  • Create “male friends” from some of the already-told Beforever stories.
  • Create a new “Girl of the Year” with a “Boy of the Year” as a best friend/brother doll.
  • Create a whole new line of historical boy characters that match the times already represented, just from a male perspective.
  • Focus on creating contemporary (modern) dolls for boys like Truly Me.
  • An exclusive line with books, like Hopscotch Hill dolls or Girls of Many Lands, with dolls that are slightly smaller than the 18” dolls so that they can be distinct.
  • Customizable dolls, similar to Truly Me, but where you can choose from an array of historical AND modern fashions and accessories as well as different ethnic molds.
  • Release a Limited Edition Boy doll every year or every other year.

Beforever Boys

Using the male characters from the already-written Beforever line can shorten the time it takes to create a male character. Many fans are already familiar with characters like Stirling from the Kit series, TJ from Julie’s series, Davy and Wayne from Maryellen’s series, and Julius from Melody’s series. Though Kaya has Two Hawks, trying to get their fashions correct without being “offensive” would be challenging, considering throughout the summer boys mostly wore breechcloths. And I don’t think those two boys are the best role models. Samantha has Eddie Ryland in her story, but he’s never becomes a friend. Rebecca has Victor, but he seems too old to fit into the “American Boys”, even though he’s Ricky’s age (Molly’s story). If they’d kept Kirsten and Molly, they may have had more options (though I felt Ricky was a horrible little boy).Considering Kirsten and Molly are archived, the boys from their series would not be included either, decreasing the number of options. That presents another problem: If they decide to archive the Beforever girl, the boy is going to go, too. After all, what sense is there to get rid of the main character and keep her male friend doll? Do we really want a short-term thing? With American Girl constantly trying to make room for new dolls, any of the girls are liable to go and then we’ll still be without an inclusive line of boy dolls. We already saw what happened to the Best Friend dolls.

There would not be much diversity with just those boys mentioned above released as all of them are white. Eventually, as they are even doing with the current Beforever and Girl of the Year line, people will be pushing for more diversity. This was also why the Best Friend dolls didn’t go over well. Only some American Girls got best friends, which meant more fashions and accessories from the time period for the white dolls, while others seemed empty in comparison. Most of the best friends were white with just one being an Asian doll. The Best Friend collection lacked diversity.

There are American Girls who don’t have ANY main male characters around their age, like Josefina. We would never really have a Mexican historical male character if we were relying on Josefina’s story for inspiration.

Ben is a favorite among girls, but he’s too old. The target age for historical characters are 9 to 10. Ben is basically considered a “grown man” in his time. The stories, from his perspective, would be far more “advanced” and not as lighthearted as Felicity’s stories (from a child’s perspective). He would be more like the Girls of Many Lands. They would have to make it intermediate or advanced literature, which would mean the words Ben uses would be too difficult for children to pronounce and the content would be…a little more intense.

And if we are going to add Ben, we might as well add Seth (Caroline), Lars (Kirsten), Joseph (Rebecca), and Sam (Addy). This would fit better with an American “Teen” line, though, rather than an American Boy line of dolls. To add, over half of the boys who would fit into an American Teen line are in the stories of characters who are archived.

 

Even if there were enough boys to go around, there weren’t that many clothing options for boys in the past. Boys were simpler than girls historically and it’s hard enough to get some of the American Girl Beforever characters to look appealing as it is (this is why they still haven’t designed a Pilgrim yet). Appealing to the general demographic would be challenging. A “best friend” male doll would not give girls the same options that a “best friend” girl doll would.

To put it all bluntly, they can’t go far with male characters from the book series, just as they couldn’t go far with the Best Friends.

Boy of the Year

I like the idea of American Girl creating a “Boy of the Year”. But that boy will only last a year. What will happen to the little boys that come into the brand the following year only to discover that the doll has been discontinued? That takes us back to square one. Still, this would be great as a test run. However, considering American Girl only has one year to sell these dolls to meet their financial quota, I doubt they will take that risk. American Girl is taking their time releasing an African American Girl of the Year because they’re too afraid “she won’t sell”.

And if he were a best friend doll…He would still only last a year. The other problem is American Girl would have to try to sell two dolls in one year. They already had that challenge before, which was why they scrapped the “Best Friend” strategy.

The All-New Historical line

This would be an amazing alternative to the American Girl Beforever brand. The real question is, how far would they be willing to take this line?

If they want to take it as far as their current Beforever line, which includes accessories and books, the two lines would end up being competitors for the company’s attention. Dealing with TWO historical lines is a challenge.

They would also have to decide what time periods they could use for the boys, which would take years. It took years to build the original Beforever line. It will take years to build a line like this.

This may also take them away from “what the brand stands for”. By focusing on boys and their adventures in time, this company will no longer be a brand mostly focused on girls. I feel we desperately need history taught from the perspective of normal women and girls (and not just from queens and political leaders).

I feel that it would be best to come out with just five boys from the past. But we know how that’s going to turn out. Eventually, kids will ask for more.

One of the lines will suffer. My bet is on the boys’ line. This might be a great idea when they’ve covered every single time they possibly could with the original Beforever line. For now, it’s complicated.

Modern American Boys

This would be a great idea. They could also have various head and facial types. I see this being more attractive to girls.

Most of the boys seem to like the historical part of American Girl. They don’t care about fashion for fashion’s sake. It has to be purposeful. American Girl Beforever dolls’ purpose is to educate about the time period, even through the fashions.

Still, I think having items, like miniature footballs or cooking sets would appeal to boys just as much as the items appeal to girls. It’s great for playtime. Children of both genders have a wide imagination and want to play out their lives.

Exclusive Boys

An exclusive boy toy line, like Hopscotch Hill dolls or Girls of Many Lands, would be good. They may be shorter than 18 inches and probably less expensive. This would be a great way to introduce male characters into the brand.

The issue is whether or not they should be historical dolls or modern ones.

One without the other would make the line feel like it’s missing something. They may come with books, but I can’t see girls buying dolls that don’t connect with the main American Girl dolls in any way. Most of American Girl’s off-shoot lines failed. They would really have to promote this kind of line if they expect success.

Still, this is the best option.

Customizable Dolls

This is the best option in my opinion. If American Girl is going to step into the “boy doll” field, allowing an array of playtime options would be the smartest move.

I think the boy dolls should start off with five or six customizable molds to represent various races and ethnic groups, similar to the Bitty Baby line.

Customers should be able to pick between fashion packs that include both historical and contemporary (modern) fashion with an array of accessories that match a boy’s life.

I really think this would be the best for playtime. Though books couldn’t be included in this kind of line, which is a shame because it wouldn’t inspire boys to develop a strong character, it would still be a lot of fun.

Limited Edition

This would also be a pretty good idea. This way, the boy dolls won’t take over and change the “direction” the company is trying to go in. Just like “Girl of the Year”, they could have a separate boy toy line with one doll every year. It could sell out in one year, but then that would cut into the Girl of the Year marketing strategy.

It could be one new historical boy every year, choosing a new time zone every time. He may come with one already-written book or a tell-it-yourself sort of thing. That would go over better and it wouldn’t be modern like Girl of the Year. They would be the most unique boy dolls on the market.

They would still take over the Girl of the Year marketing strategy, but at least they would be different.

Still, a modern boy would probably sell better to the main demographic, just the like the modern girls do. To create a historical boy takes three years of research as well as tons of money. It would be difficult to release one every year.

Either way, though, they would interfere with Girl of the Year marketing. One is going to have to go.

The boys could be limited to two or three years, but that means it would take forever to get the next boy doll. There wouldn’t be many options in the meantime.

Beforever Transformed Into Boys

Reader Yousef, who is a boy, made the suggestion that the company could transform the Beforever collection into boys. For example, instead of Samantha, she could be Samuel, and her books could be told from a boy’s perspective. Perhaps all the genders could be switched in the story. This would change things significantly. For instance, Aunt Cornelia was a female suffragist. As a man, she more than likely wouldn’t have been too interested. But perhaps Uncle Gard as a female would be more interested!

I really love this idea. What makes it better is that a boy from the target age group would be interested, too! Male fans are already familiar with the characters. This is actually something I would buy! Honestly, knowing the kind of fan I am, I wouldn’t consider the above options quite as interesting as this one!

However, reader Raygirl also makes some good points. While this would be a wildly popular idea, the time it takes to create these boys would greatly interfere with making new Beforever characters. Though they have already researched the times, they would have to learn a little more about boys in these time periods. It may not take three years, but it may take some time. They would have to hire writers to recreate the two volumes. Then the time and money it takes to manufacture these dolls! It took American Girl a little over 20 years to build the brand to where it is today.

Unfortunately, male dolls will only be made for the current Beforever characters, and not the archived ones like Molly, Felicity, Kirsten, Marie-Grace, and Cecile. 😦 That makes me dislike this idea more. And this would prevent archival as they try to sell the boys in enough time. This means it would stop them from creating new Beforever characters.

Reader Ashley Allegretti also mentioned that hearing the stories over again would be a little “dry”.

Still, this is the only idea I would actually support. Maybe when they’ve run out of ideas for the main Beforever line, they could start designing for a male version. Or they can make the boy dolls look like the current Beforever girls, but give them all-new stories. Still, we’re running into the issues we discussed above with American Boys in an all-new line…

To wrap this up, what do readers think? Do you think an American Boy doll is a good idea? If so, which option above sounds like the best one? If you don’t like the idea, share why you don’t!

Search up ideas for American Boy dolls!

 

Lea Clark, Girl of the Year 2016, Takes Us to Brazil and Helps Girls Overcome Their Fears

9 Jan

Lea, Girl of the Year 2016, is another destination character like Grace Thomas Girl of the Year 2015. This time, the destination is tropical Brazil.

Lea Clark, the 2016 Girl of the Year, dives in to
new adventures and explores what’s in her heart.

She discovers it takes courage to do something you’ve never done before.

Lea’s interests are animals and photography.

LeaDivesIn_Cover

Lea Dives In: In her second book, Lea Clark is all set for an animal-discovery adventure! She’s never been to a rainforest before, and her mind is filled with exciting thoughts about the animals she’ll get to see—and the pictures she’ll get to take deep in the jungle. During a hike with her brother through the Amazon rainforest, they discover a baby sloth that is badly injured. Lea quickly decides she must do all she can to help the little sloth survive. But as she learns more, she wonders: Is that the right thing to do?

LeaLeadsTheWay

Lea Leads the Way: Lea Clark is all set for an animal-discovery adventure! She’s never been to a rainforest before, and her mind is filled with exciting thoughts about the animals she’ll get to see—and the pictures she’ll get to take deep in the jungle. During a hike with her brother through the Amazon rainforest, they discover a baby sloth that is badly injured. Lea quickly decides she must do all she can to help the little sloth survive. But as she learns more, she wonders: “Is that the right thing to do?”

LeaAndCamila

Lea and Camila: For spring break, Lea Clark has invited her Brazilian friend Camila to St. Louis for a stateside adventure. They find a stray kitten and make a mysterious discovery while visiting a grand but crumbling mansion. Lea is determined to uncover the secrets of her discovery, but in her search for clues she forgets to be a good host to Camila. And when Lea’s best friend, Abby, becomes fast friends with Camila, Lea feels a little left out. Can she find a way to reconnect with her friends—and solve the mystery, too?

Lea will encourage your girl to face her fears, explore the world around her, and open her mind. These stories inspire girls to have new experiences.

lea movie

A movie will accompany her collection in the summer. Unlike movies that have come out before for other American Girl dolls, this movie will not be based on the books (or rather a re-telling of the books) and will be the “fourth” story. American Girl announced that it will continue Lea’s adventures in the rainforest.

“An unexpected twist sends Lea back to the rainforest for an all-new movie adventure!”

Her collection includes:

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Her Meet outfit and Beachwear for kayaking.

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Lea’s souvenir outfit

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Pajamas for sleeping under the tropical rainforest.

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Lea goes hiking in this ensemble.

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Lea’s photography and animal-watching accessories.

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Beach accessories

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Hiking accessories

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Kayaking accessories with Kayak.

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Sea turtle

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Banana Berry stand

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Margay cat

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Lea’s rainforest house

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A sloth

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bathing suit and beach outfits

********************************************************************************************************

Review 

I know. I’m late. Lea has been out for 9 days now, and I’m just now posting this. See, the thing is I thought I’d already posted this. My issue was I was so excited about Melody, I forgot to post this for those interested in Lea.

And I must admit it: I am not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong. She is pretty. I like the combination of her hair and skin color. I’m tired of the hazel eyes trend, though. :/

Still, there is just something so BORING about her. Is it just me or is American Girl Girl of the Year suddenly…uninspiring? It’s starting to feel like they are repeating the same dolls over and over again. And I’m not talking about the way she looks. I’m sure a lot of people are disappointed that she is another white, blonde character. That doesn’t quite disappoint me. Maybe it’s because I’m not as interested in the Girl of the Year as the Beforever collection. Still, when I see a GOTY I just really love, a doll I can’t resist, she must really be amazing. That’s how I felt about Grace last year. That’s not how I feel about Lea. In fact, the only other doll that bored me this much was Isabelle and for the same reason. There are several things that bore me about this collection.

Haven’t we done the tropical destination theme before?

I understand eventually American Girl will run out of ideas, but they haven’t even covered the SCOPE of ideas before settling with something they’ve already done before. Placing a movie with Lea’s collection will not resolve this issue. Lea seems like a last-minute character. They borrowed some ideas from old collections and put her in a familiar tropical environment.

What about a chess player? A musician, like a pianist or violinist or guitarist? I would’ve thought they would even try a singer or model before doing something over. What about a cheerleader? What about a girl football player?

Why don’t they make all the science items they failed to make for Maryellen and place them with the Girl of the Year?

But NOOO. That would be too original.

Girl of the Year has done this tropical theme TWICE, along with Kailey’s beach theme. Lea’s collection lacks identity.

Let’s just observe this boring collection closely for a moment…

The Kayak

I already have my Kayak from Jess’s collection.

jess kayak

Why would I be interested in Lea’s Kayak? :/ BOOORRRIINNNG. YAWN. I like the inflatable feel of Jess’s Kayak versus the plastic piece of junk in Lea’s collection. It’s not tempting. But I guess it’s easier for bath-time use.

Tie-dyed fashion

I’m also tired of the tie-dyed look as well. I’m feeling a Jess vibe from that, too.

lea

Jess

And it’s not that the styles are anything alike, but Lea’s theme is so redundant. It has been done too many times. It’s bad enough I’m not a big fan of tie-dye. It’s worse that they’ve done this more than once.

Rainforest House

I’m interested in the rainforest house a bit, but it does not make me long for Lea. It suits my Jess perfectly. Jess looks more unique than Lea does, so I see no need to add Lea to my collection for any reason, not even because a rainforest house was mentioned in her story and is supposed to be a part of her collection. I have no interest in reinventing Lea’s stories.

Berry Banana Stand

The Berry Banana stand reminds me of the Shave Ice stand from Kanani’s collection. Another tropical-themed collection. Though I actually prefer the Banana-berry stand, I already have a stand. I don’t feel the need to have both.

kanani's shave ice stand

Kanani may have been a repeat of Jess for me (as well as Kailey), but at least she had better fashion sense, cultural pieces, and different accessories in her collection at the time.

I can combine all of the collection pieces I already HAVE and create Lea’s collection.

American Girl has had TONS of hazel-eyed dolls, and the sandy-haired types, too.

What can I gain from this Girl of the Year?

Swimsuit

Girl of the Year has had enough tropical swimsuits to make my head spin.

 

 

Jess swimsuit

Kailey swimsuit

lea 2

I understand they are all from different years. I understand that girls today probably don’t remember Kailey and Jess and weren’t able to get their wardrobes when they were available. I get it. Still, I’ve had enough. I’m not interested in purchasing any more of this tropical junk, not for me or anyone else.

If you keep revamping ideas just to give old ideas to the new kiddies, when will you give kids some new stuff? When will you be more creative American Girl? American Girl is a company that has the potential to step outside of these basic ideas. They can do more with their resources than they used to when Girl of the Year first arrived on the scene. So why not broaden the Girl of the Year brand with a more unique destination? Why didn’t they try Africa? I mean, that IS where they filmed the movie!

I don’t even think her books are all that interesting. I’m not interested in learning about the rainforest as I feel the novelty wore off after Jess’s story.

Isabelle was the same way for me. Why would I be interested in a ballerina when I already have Marisol? But at least I was interested in Isabelle’s sewing set. Lea bores me all the way around.

After Grace, I thought American Girl had finally come to their senses. How foolish I was to think that this company would ever live up to my personal expectations.

So, no, Lea isn’t come home. Not one item in her collection is coming home. I’m not even interested in her movie. The fact that she isn’t even Brazilian is worse. I’ll pass. For those of you interested in Brazil or didn’t get a chance to get the other tropical characters, go for Lea.

As for me, I’m more excited for Melody and Girl of the Year 2017.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think! Do you think I’m being too harsh? Do you like Lea Clark? What would you add in your collection? Or do you think she’s boring as well? I want to know!

American Girl and African American Beforever Characters: What does the future hold?

15 Aug

Rumors always spread like wildfire in the American Girl community. We are an enthusiastic group of fans. Our latest rumor comes from (basically) the confirmation that the newest American Girl Beforever character, “Beforever” being the name of the historical line of dolls from American Girl, would be an African American girl and that she is due to come out in 2016.

fb african american girl doll

This is all exciting news considering that this year Maryellen Larkin, an enthusiastic girl from the 1950s, has joined the American Girl Beforever group of characters.

Maryellen2

Two American Girls within two years? That’s quite a treat considering American Girl dolls are very challenging to produce. American Girl has many lines of dolls. They have the Beforever line of dolls that teach girls about history, a contemporary line of dolls, and the Bitty Baby line that favors younger children. Of all of their lines, the Beforever line is the most challenging to create. First, market research must be done to understand how they can appeal the doll to modern girls. Second, they have to find a time in history that is important for teaching and relating to girls today. Then they have to research the time thoroughly while still observing children because the history will be told from a child’s perspective. Lastly, they have to create authentic clothing and accessories that realistically fit a 9 to 10 year old girl (Though I can honestly say lately they’ve been slipping on that. Julie in platform shoes?).

But American Girl has somehow managed to work on two girls at once. They probably got a lot of practice creating those Best Friend dolls over the years (for those of you who don’t know, the “Best Friend” dolls were dolls that were the friends of the lead American Girl characters in their stories and usually accompanied the lead character in the collection). Now, fans don’t have to wait anxiously for the next new Beforever character. It’s exciting news!

Well, since the African American girl is basically confirmed, many have been wondering what time period she could possibly be from. Many speculate that she will be from Detroit in the 1960s. This coincides with the heavy demand for a girl who has experienced the Civil Rights era. With all of the current racial tension being the focus, many people feel that now would be the best time to release a character that touches on controversial issues such as race. This would make the character powerful for now.

But many also are still hoping for that 1920s Harlem Renaissance character, too.

I can honestly say that I’m stuck. I feel that if either comes out, I will be happy and disappointed. I truly can’t decide which time period would be more interesting for African Americans. And honestly, the sad part is, I don’t think American Girl would release an African American character for both time periods, though that would be ideal. So to give in to one time is to lose something precious historically from another. And the chances that they would cover an era twice (with a white girl and black girl representing these periods in history) is just weird and time-consuming…Might as well cover the era once…

As an African American, I feel both times may do many different things for the brand, but what each period does for African American girls will be different. What do I mean by that, you ask?

Let’s look at the 1960s, the most popular rumor.

The 1960s

People have made many interesting points about the 1960s girl being interesting. I’ve always been in favor of the 1960s prior to Maryellen’s release.

The 1960s is a very popular modern era. It relates more to modern African Americans than does the Harlem Renaissance.

The 20th Century is a big deal with children and adults alike. The possibilities for those “stereotyped” fashions are endless. When thinking of Maryellen, for example, people focused on a poodle skirt. Realistically, not every girl flounced around in a poodle skirt all the time and listened to a jukebox. These are stereotypes. But they did exist.

Likely with the 1960’s girl, many people are probably looking forward to fashions that may reflect more of a teenager’s look rather than a kid’s look. I’ve heard some people say they hope her hairstyle looks like something from the Supremes…Like a 9 to 10 year old girl would look like that in REAL life…

So people are not very realistic with their hopes and dreams regarding American Girl’s Beforever, but that doesn’t stop people from wanting American Girl to touch on a moment in history that strongly relates to the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of today.

The 1960s were an interesting cultural time for African Americans as well. The “Motown” era emerged when an all-black label helped transcend racial boundaries by producing artists that appealed to those outside of the black community. We have the birth of funk (James Brown, “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud”). Talking about hippies? The sixties was the true era for that. The afro and all the colorful clothing marked the generation. Of course, we’re thinking about a child’s perspective here. The most she may have is an afro, and I’m inclined to believe she’ll have braids in her hair with hair ribbons.

Last, but not least, the 1960s were known to be a transforming period for African Americans because the Civil Rights Movement sought to equalize people of the minority group with white citizens, and many African American political and social leaders rose from this movement. It was an empowering time for African Americans and influenced many people throughout the nation and around the world. The efforts of African Americans/Black people in this period showed great accomplishment, intelligence, courage, and strength when it came to their use of the justice system during this period. It’s very American.

It also relates to modern African American children, who mostly understand their history through the Civil Rights movement and 1960s music.

People of other nationalities were also greatly affected by the Civil Rights movement. Desegregation moved black children into white schools, changing the environments that they were used to. Much prejudice had to be overcome in order to help this transition work. People of other backgrounds, such as the Native Americans, saw this movement as inspirational for their own Civil Rights movements.

Still, it’s obvious that the Civil Rights Movement mostly impacted African Americans, so it’s fitting for the newest Beforever character.

The 1960s weren’t all about Civil Rights and funk. The Beatles rock era and Bob Dylan/Joan Baez’s folk music influenced the sixties hippies as well. There are a lot of exciting things to get into regarding this era.

The downside to this era is that, when dealing with African Americans, this era focuses on the negative side of being black in America. It heavily brings out the same problems Addy had: racial oppression. Again, the story focuses on black people being held back versus prospering and inventing. It doesn’t show how African Americans influenced all of American culture. Instead, it shows how racial tension and oppression influenced black people. This is the strength I’ve found with covering the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. The history is more positive in that era.

The content may also be controversial. This may scare away certain ethnic backgrounds and the sales of the collection may suffer for it.

I also don’t like that the doll is being released so close to Maryellen, the white character who is just 10 years prior to 1965 (assuming that’s where the era would begin if the new girl is from the 1960s). We saw how promoting two girls of different ethnic backgrounds can be when they are from the same time when it came to Marie-Grace and Cecile. Though Maryellen and the new girl wouldn’t be from the same time, they are near one another in very popular moments in history. Having the two girls fight for the spotlight can be rough when it comes to marketing.

The 1920s

The 1920s shows the elevation of black people and focuses on the positive side of African American history.

If you want to know the truth, there isn’t any 1960s without the 1920s. The 1920s were the first time, since the Civil War, black people were able to receive an education, find opportunities to prosper, and grow into the modern African Americans we know today. Know any Black people who live in Harlem, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, or Los Angeles? You can thank the Harlem Renaissance. Many African Americans lived in the South prior to the 1920s. Big cities began sprouting upward. Schools, libraries, office buildings, and parks sprouted up all over the big cities in the nation. African Americans moved into the inner city areas which were becoming more affordable for living. With all the modern technology came a social-cultural explosion in music, art, and literature.

In Harlem and other northern cities, many African Americans saw the benefits of their freedom. Many black people owned their own businesses in the North. There were black-owned stores, black-owned libraries, and even schools.

The libraries were the biggest contribution to the black community. Education laws made school mandatory and African Americans benefited from having access to free books to help them study. They began to learn about the laws in America and began taking steps toward “civil rights” through organizations like the NAACP. The rise in education helped give rise to many poets and even to great literature.

One of the biggest parts of the 1920s was music, even outside of black communities. The 1920s were often coined around the world as the Jazz Age. Guess where Jazz originated? In the African American community! Many people do not give credit to African Americans for this fun, modern music that made the 1920s glamorous. But without African Americans, Jazz music wouldn’t have made the 1920s as “roaring” as it became.

The 1920s didn’t just affect African Americans or Americans at that. Big cities around the world, such as Berlin, Paris, and London caught on to the modernized lifestyle. This is why a 1920s girl would be more appealing to others than a 1960s doll. Many African American dolls don’t sell as well as the white dolls. A lot has to do with the fact that most of the African American dolls lack “glamor”. The 1920s were such an exciting moment in history, it would really make African Americans look good. I’m sure the fashion choices would be lovely, though, maybe for a young girl, not too different from Rebecca.

Sure, most people know about Prohibition, flappers, and gangsters, but from a 9 to 10 year old perspective, they wouldn’t have been involved too heavily with these things. Still, the flappers showed that attitudes about “proper” behavior were loosening, especially regarding women. Even the men loosened up.

Home decor became a thing in the 1920s as well. Automobiles started replacing carriages. And the radio stepped into people’s lives.

Women were able to vote for the first time. Imagine how this influenced the modern black woman!

People also began focusing on celebrities and sports stars for the first time. Movie theaters and sports stadiums brought attention to talented individuals in these fields. All-black teams were created, which greatly influences the black community to this day!

Certainly the 1920s can relate to anyone of any background. Because of this, I think that a black girl in this time won’t just be looked at as “the black girl” who fights “racism”. She will be looked at as the American girl, the girl that can relate to any girl no matter their background.

While I know American Girl will only choose one of the two eras for next year, I still hope both eras are eventually represented by African American characters. I often doubt that American Girl is that open-minded and I often get the feeling that, in the future, the 1920s will be represented by a white girl. I would be sorely disappointed if I find a white girl dancing to Jazz without proper respect to the African Americans who brushed in the genre.

From the rumors, it looks like the new American Girl may be from the 1960s, which is really great. But I hope they don’t get rid of Addy because her story touches on racism. There are hardly any 19th century girls as it is. Josefina and Addy are the only two. I also hope that this doesn’t stop them from making an African American character from the 1920s. After all, there are many white dolls from many different times. Why not have many black dolls if they are more suitable to a time period? Anyway…

Which era in African American history would you like to hear? What are your hopes for the newest African American character and any future dolls?

Leave a comment in the comments’ section and let me know what you think!

American Girl doll Girl of the Year 2015: Grace Thomas

19 Dec

Grace thomas 16Grace Thomas 2 Grace Thomas 3 Grace thomas 6 Grace Thomas 7 Grace Thomas 10 Grace Thomas 11 Grace Thomas 14 Grace Thomas 15

Grace Thomas 4 Grace Thomas 5 Grace Thomas 8 Grace Thomas 9 Grace Thomas 12 Grace Thomas 13

Pictures for the new Girl of the Year 2015 are out there, if you haven’t heard. It has been leaked on americangirl.com somehow…

*This article has been updated with the latest information.

She is a brunette character this time with a side-swept bang, and long hair. She also has freckles and blue eyes. I’m assuming they are giving her freckles because of Saige’s success, as Saige helped Mattel boost up 3% in 2013. I heard Isabelle was not doing as well…I can’t say I’m surprised…

Read articles here:

Mattel’s Annual Report 2013

Isabelle: Girl of the Year 2014

What do I think of the new Girl of the Year 2015?

I think she’s adorable. I like the fact that she is NOT blonde. Yes, American Girl, thank you.

I thought she would not be interesting because when I heard her story for the first time, it seemed a little messy.  This is her book synopsis:

“Nine-year-old GOTY is always thinking up big ideas, like starting a business with her friends over the summer! When Mom announces a trip to Paris instead, GOTY gets on board, but it quickly seems as if none of her plans are working out the way she’d hoped. She and her French cousin aren’t getting along, and GOTY’s friends back home have started a business without her. Can she find the courage to stay open to new ideas and turn the summer around?”

This synopsis attempts to be interesting by telling us the setting is in Paris, but it left me feeling confused. Thus, this story seemed all over the place, like it’s trying to focus on Paris, then all of a sudden the story jumps on a completely new subject, and starts focusing on the business. This story also doesn’t seem to have a solid “lesson”. It’s not clear what direction the story wants to take. Ironically, that seems to be a trait of all children’s story-telling today, especially the stories that come with merchandising, i.e. Frozen. You can read more about that here and here. Thus, I wasn’t really interested in the story at first. She doesn’t get along with her cousin, which sounds almost exactly like Kanani’s story. She wants to start her own business, which reminds me of Kanani’s shave ice stand. And also, her story is going to take place in a foreign nation, just like Jess’s story took place in Belize. I know there are huge differences between Belize and Paris, but it’s still an American Girl who’s story does not take place in America. To add, it’s such a “privileged” story. Not every kid can afford to take a trip to Paris…

There didn’t seem to be anything…unique about this story. I guess that’s the main reason why I wasn’t interested. It felt like it had already been told, and so the outcome seemed even more predictable than the average GOTY. And it kind of still does, but later on I found some more interesting sides to the story.

Based on the collection, it seems she wants to open her own bakery. I suppose traveling to Paris will give her the inspiration to create her own French bakery in America? Many chefs travel around the world to find food inspiration. Perhaps that’s what she will learn while traveling? That’s just a hunch. That would make the story ten times more interesting.

Qualms

Qualm 1: I know American Girl is eager to make use of the Parisian setting for their movie, but they are starting to appear like they are trying too hard to make a good movie. American Girl used to make movies based on the books, now it seems they have designed everything in a way where it appears the books are inspired from the ideas they want to put in the movies…And movies always feel less realistic than books.

The last GOTY movie I actually liked was Chrissa’s movie, and that’s because it touched on a real issue: Bullying. And it was realistic about it. Trust me. I work in education, and I have seen bullying at that magnitude. Despite how parents would like to see children, children can be very cruel…Moving on…

Qualm 2: Just like Isabelle, she is caught wearing pink as a signature color for her starter outfit. And pink has been sprinkled throughout the collection, too. (sigh, Attack of the Pink again…Another part of Mattel’s 18 Ways they Can Ruin a Doll Line).

Qualm 3: Am I the only one annoyed that the name “Grace” was used again? And to throw salt on it, she’s learning French, just like Marie-Grace. It’s a stabbing reminder of how they cast aside the NOLA historical characters. It’s also…been used before, and so isn’t so very creative. I, at least, hoped it would be the name of another historical character because it would mean that a historical character is on the way…And it would make the fact that Marie-Grace was removed easier to deal with. GOTY is only around for one year, and so that name will be out in the air all over again.

Qualm 4: She’s white…again. I’m not too mad, considering I’m fine with the concept they produced for her, but I don’t think American Girl is making the same impact with their GOTYs anymore. It’s time for them to shock the world and try something new. I think this is what will slam Mattel in 2015.

Qualm 5: Isn’t it a little stereotypical for Grace to be sporting a French beret? Like all French people nowadays walk around wearing a beret…Can we be a little more authentic, American Girl?

Pro

Pro: Despite my lack of interest in GOTY story-telling, I like that this girl is not a dancer or an athlete.  Sure, there were other subjects American Girl could’ve focused on, but this subject doesn’t seem too bad now that I have deciphered what the story may actually be about. At least she is a little entrepreneur. I also like the fact that they are teaching girls the value of hard work. Girls can do so much more today, and I think this collection will encourage girls to explore their options.

Pro: After seeing the doll in American Girl’s photos with her accessories, she is absolutely scrumptious! I’m not too excited about the pink dress. It sort of reminds me of Samantha’s dress for modern girls. But I ❤ that red “Love” sweater! I want, I want, I want! I also love that the bakery is a realistic color, blue and red. So, I want that, too. ❤ I half expected the bakery to be pink.

I heard…

Many people felt that American Girl did not live up to their expectations. Many people were hoping for an African American girl or a girl with a disability of some sort. I wrote a little segment about dolls of color here. I had no real hopes. However, even I will admit, there was nothing shocking about this GOTY. A GOTY of color would’ve made an impact.

Many people initially felt she looked a lot like Chrissa and Saige mixed together, but I think she looks beautiful with the combination of features.

I will admit, here we have your typical white girl, with the same tried-again features, with a done-again story. This girl is basically many GOTYs mashed together. But you also have to admit…She’s easy to fall in love with. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling.

Perhaps American Girl wanted Grace to have a mixture of old features. Young girls may not remember Chrissa or Jess or any other GOTY from more than 3 years ago. I suppose they re-used the features to reignite interest in the doll type and to bring the look into the modern generation. Still, it doesn’t do much for old-time fans. American Girl has a hard time bridging the gap between the old-time fans and the new fans. They are also having a hard time reaching out to people of color.

Overall, Grace isn’t everything anyone could want, but she’s a far improvement from Isabelle, the second GOTY dancer. At least they came up with an original concept for Grace.

American Girl shows more about the GOTY 2015 here —>American Girl.com

So, leave me a comment and share with me what you think so far, and your expectations for GOTY in the future. Do you think she’s a let down or were you surprisingly pleased?

Do American Girl dolls of Color Sell Poorly?

27 Oct

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Every year, American Girl fans anticipate the next American Girl Girl of the Year, the new annual modern doll that has come out since the beginning of the 21st Century. She usually comes with her own collection and set of books. What makes these dolls different from the historical dolls are that they reflect modern girls. The modern stories tend to lack the depth and length that the historical stories have.

goty

In January 2014, American Girl disappointed many fans with Isabelle, an inspiring dancer. She was very uninteresting to most folks. 1) Girl of the year 2005 was a dancer. 2) Isabelle was another boring blonde in pink. It’s not that American Girl is crawling with blondes. It was just too predictable. Fans were hoping for something a little more original. To add, her features weren’t very unique. She didn’t have short hair or a ponytail or pigtails. She was marketed in an unoriginal way. Everything about her reminded everyone of another doll released in American Girl. I’ve heard comparisons to Kailey, Julie, Lanie…Which can’t be helped. Sometimes, American Girl has to repeat itself. But did she have to wear pink and dance? No.

Read my article: Do Blonde dolls sell better?

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Many people are pushing for variety in the Girl of the Year line. A lot of people asked for an African American character. American Girl just now decided to create one in 2017.

Out of all of the dolls that have been released in the last 10 years, not one has been of African American descent. People were hoping that 2015 would be the year. Yet, there were many others who doubted American Girl would even try, including myself.

The question is: Why has Mattel waited so long to create a modern African American character? To put it honestly, black dolls don’t sell as well as the other dolls in the American Girl historical/Beforever collection. Even if you mosey on over to americangirl.com, enter into the “Shop” page, go under the “Bookstore” section, scroll down to “Historical Fiction”, and look at the word “Sort” and scroll down to “Most Popular”, Addy’s books are not even listed on the first two pages. At one time, when the other American Girl dolls were around (Kirsten, Molly, Felicity, Marie-Grace, and the Best Friend dolls), Addy was even further behind. Since those girls have been archived, Addy’s listings are higher in the books section. Still, the American Girl historical dolls sell low as it is. The minorities fall behind.

Go under the “Furniture” section. Addy’s bed is among the last of the Beforever listed. Addy is even among the last when you go under the “Dolls” section on the “Shop” page. Scroll all the way down to the “Dolls for ages 8+” on the bottom left-hand side. Go to “Sort” by “Most Popular”. You can clearly see that all of the Beforever dolls are popular at the moment, BUT the minorities are among the least popular in the collection. Imagine if Molly and Felicity were around!

http://store.americangirl.com/agshop/html/thumbnail/id/253/uid/143/view/3

Many argue that this just doesn’t apply to African American dolls, but Asian and Hispanic/Latino dolls in the Beforever line as well. None of the minorities are on the first two pages of the “Historical Fiction” section. The first two pages consist of white girls. There are Caucasian girls listed on the back pages, but the only Caucasians on the back pages are the ones that are Archived. All of the minorities are right before them. Kaya, Rebecca, and Josefina sadly have even lower listings than Addy. And this is just for books, which are prices cheaper than the dolls.

American Girl has sold more than 147 million books since 1986. They have only sold a fraction of that number when it comes to dolls, 25 million to be exact, in that same amount of time. And Addy is not topping either list. Being at the bottom of the book list carries a different tone than the doll list, where they’ve sold less. So where does Addy’s world fit into both stats? You do the math.

http://www.americangirl.com/corp/corporate.php?section=about&id=6

Since the Historical/Beforever collection is the “heart” of the brand, it is the main factor when American Girl Company is deciding what will sell or not.

This does not apply to the My American Girl line, where the black girls sell pretty well. More on this later…

The Beforever line seems to have the hardest time.

There could be two reasons for this:

1) American Girl Beforever does not appeal to African American children or households.

2) American Girl Beforever is too expensive, and minority families are less willing to pay the price for dolls.

3) The “majority” doesn’t connect with the minority enough to help support them.

As an African American myself, I have to say that, growing up, the first two points really struck my household as true. I was introduced to American Girl at a young age in the 1990’s. Back then, the prices were lower, but we still didn’t want to invest in these dolls. I got two dolls, and that was it. When I got older, I extended my collection. Most people I talk to that are of my same ethnicity say the same thing: “I am not spending that kind of money for a doll. My child will be fine with a Disney doll”.

Price is one thing, but the appeal of American Girl is not catching on to the African American community, either.

The reasons vary. They are not all related, either.

One reason is that the few American Girls that are black and a part of American Girl have provided stereotypical versions of African Americans for years. While Addy, the 1864 slave girl, exposes young black girls to a real part of African American history, some African Americans took offense during the time when she was the only African American represented (back in the 1990’s when she was the only black doll). Many African Americans wanted to be known for more than being uneducated slaves. They felt it was a hurtful and poor reminder of the oppression and segregation experienced by black people. “Like, why does the black girl have to be the slave?” They were ashamed of this. Other races are afraid to invest in Addy because her stories deal with racial issues so heavily. So, Addy was controversial since debut. Since African Americans didn’t take off with Addy, many didn’t follow the brand through. Many are just now hearing about the new doll, Cecile, the wealthy girl of color, and Melody, the Civil Rights Era doll because they only remember the brand when it had Addy, the slave girl.

I will say this is the same with Kaya. I get so many Native American people telling me they hate Kaya because she falls into stereotypes, though she represents a real part of their history and ACTUAL culture! It was the same with Ivy.

Addy (left, 1864)and Cecile (right, 1853)

Addy (left, 1864)and Cecile (right, 1853)

The truth is, as proud as people are of their personal heritage, many people want to be defined and labeled by something other than their ethnicity. They are struggling to find an American identity in this modern world, where race is no longer something that can define a person’s successes or failures as much as it used to. While people would be offended if their races weren’t represented, people would equally be angry if that doll was stereotypical in nature! And then people would be contradictory and end up offended if the doll wasn’t realistic or true to the culture at all! Even with Cecile, there were still black people who thought Cecile was glossing over the struggles of black people! Addy was too harsh, and Cecile wasn’t harsh enough!

Read More about that here: American Girl Black History Month

With so many divisions, this divides the money as well. Thus, the sale of the doll depends on how well she is executed. Most companies don’t want to take this risk. Thus, they risk less by omitting an ethnicity altogether.

The main reason why divisions occur inside an ethnicity could be because there are not ENOUGH ethnic dolls to represent a diverse group of people. Even black people are multi-faceted. There are millions of white dolls to represent the diverse viewpoints and personalities of various Caucasian people. With only one or two black dolls, black people are forced to connect with one of the two dolls based on skin or culture, even if the dolls are marketed in a way that doesn’t connect necessarily with every black girl’s personality or interests. If there were more black dolls, sales of minority dolls would increase, as people would begin to recognize the company as being diverse in their collection of “black personalities”.

This is very evident when we see the success of the Bratz dolls. The Latin/Hispanic/Jewish dolls sell far more than the blonde and white dolls. There are many diverse Latin/Hispanic characters to choose from, thus the sales of the Hispanic dolls have increased, and they continue to make more. Even Clawdeen and her whole ware-wolf family from Monster High, relatively dark-skinned dolls, are some of the best sold in the line next to the brunette Draculaura. Why hasn’t this success translated to American Girl?

American Girl struggles to connect with the diversity within one ethnicity. For instance, Addy is smart and family-oriented. A black girl who doesn’t like school or isn’t family-oriented would not connect with her. I connect with Addy because her skin is like mine, but as a writer, I can’t help but be drawn to Kit more. Black girls are not marketed in a way that reveals more than the color of their skin. Diversity brings more diverse customers. This goes for all of the other ethnic dolls. In order to find a middle ground, market researchers would have to dig deep and find out just what appeals to most ethnic children. However, many researchers would rather take the easy route. Many people just end up buying a My American Girl doll anyway, where children can make her into anything they want.

A second reason for the poor sales could be the way these ethnic minorities are marketed. The modern dolls sell more than the historical dolls as it is, but even within the historical line, the 20th Century girls sell better than the 18th and 19th Century girls. All of the Caucasian dolls sold within the 18th and 19th Centuries have been discontinued (Felicity, Caroline, Kirsten, Marie-Grace, Elizabeth). But most of the ethnic minorities have dolls that represent the unpopular centuries (Kaya, Josefina, Addy). Though dolls from the 20th Century have been discontinued, one (Samantha) has been brought back, and no one would be shocked if the other ones from the 20th Century came back. Therefore, it would be more advantageous for dolls of color to represent eras that existed in the 20th Century. This is why there was a push for a Civil Rights Era doll of color. Sure, you can argue that Ivy was from the 20th Century, and no, she wasn’t successful. But then again, she was just a “side-kick” doll without a collection all her own or a full book series.

American Girl also needs to take better care of the minority characters they produce. American Girl should give their next wealthy girl of color or their Asian doll a complete collection all to herself. They had the opportunity to make so many glamorous accessories and playsets for their last wealthy girl of color. Did they take advantage of it? No. They had the opportunity to make their 1970’s girl Asian. Did they? No.

In the modern Girl of the Year collection, American Girl just recently added Gabriela McBride. We can’t determine her success until the end of the year. But the ethnic dolls that have existed have been Marisol, Jess, Sonali, and Kanani. Jess and Sonali did not sell well. Marisol and Kanani did. I should say Kanani sold better than Isabelle.

Let’s observe the two dolls that didn’t sell well versus the ones who did.

Jess was not marketed in girlish, glittery colors like Marisol and Kanani, neither was Jess’s story appealing to little girls, though it was my favorite. It was also not a huge collection. But for once, Jess was recognized as the daughter of archaeologists, not the Japanese girl (though she is bi-racial)! And yet, people were still disappointed she didn’t have any items representing her heritage…

Sonali was a best friend doll. She represented a girl who was originally a snob and became a friend. Of course she wouldn’t be appealing! She had no story collection and was not the main character of the movie. She was also a side-kick doll, like Ivy. She only came with one outfit.

So, those two dolls didn’t sell well. But the other two dolls did…

Marisol was a dancer, which is appealing to little girls, and ballet is especially appealing. That’s why American Girl thought they could do it again.

Kanani was just stylish overall. She also had a summertime collection that could bust out the lively colors and outdoor accessories and playsets.

Four dolls, four different results, and different marketing approaches. But one thing is certain: We can’t determine the outcome of the sale of a doll that hasn’t been tried yet. We can only deduce how the company will handle it based on the execution of their other dolls. So far, the chances of success are there if the company tries hard enough. It’s difficult, but not impossible. They have had at least two dolls of color fair well in GOTY.

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There are other examples of American Girl’s success with dolls of color. If we go on American Girl.com, mosey on over to the “Shop” section, click the “My American Girl” link, “search the dolls by item” number, which is the same as pressing the “Start the Fun” button, you will see a list of dolls. At the top, you can sort that list in any way you want, but one selection is by popularity. The top three most popular dolls include a dark-skinned doll! In fact, the first page has two dark-skinned dolls and one medium-skinned doll listed! These three dolls are very popular, so American Girl is selling some darker dolls very well. They are modern. If they do what they did for these dolls, perhaps they could sell more.

If they gave the ethnic minority girls more appealing collections, lovable personalities, a movie wouldn’t hurt, and friendlier stories, girls (and their parents) would cave and buy them, just like they did with Marisol and Kanani.

On the same token, if the people themselves accept the doll, and she represents both the historical aspect and a modern aspect, perhaps both sides of an ethnic division could easily support the doll.

The newest Girl of the Year 2017, Gabriela McBride, may be just the doll to bring that flavor.

I still think American Girl should at least try its hand at producing more African American characters. If it doesn’t work, at least they will have the satisfaction of knowing they tried. Really, it doesn’t seem to improve much from having a blonde character. American Girl’s market share spiraled down 10% in 2014. Isabelle is the least sold GOTY, and she is blonde and pink! People are looking for change, and I think now is the time to give it. Even Lea couldn’t sell out in 2016.

My overall conclusion: The only reason the Beforever dolls sell poorly is because of representation, execution, and poor marketing. The black dolls in the My American Girl line sell better than the black dolls in the Beforever line.Therefore, the likelihood that a modern black girl could sell well is higher than if she’s in the Beforever line.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think? What are your predictions for future GOTYs?

Read my other article: Do blonde dolls sell better?

Meet American Girl’s Beforever Characters Through Engaging Youtube Videos Inspired From Their Stories! #AGBeforeverVids

16 Sep

*This article is to spread a campaign of sorts. I want more of the videos American Girl has posted on Youtube and better American Girl commercials. The videos they are missing are Rebecca and I also consider Caroline (Because I think her video was lacking). #AGBeforeverVids

Personally, I hated American Girl’s last couple of commercials for their historical line of dolls. However, one of Beforever’s ads was a step up. And yet, this isn’t the ad that’s appearing on t.v…

The commercials always seemed so “modernized”. My last favorite commercials were of the American Girl historical movies.

(The one below is not the actual trailer, but it has some clips from the original trailer)

I know the goal of the commercials are to make the American Girls seem “easy” for modern girls to relate to, but sometimes it’s easier for girls today to relate to engaging and interesting ads, rather than cheesy ads that over-emphasize “girlhood”. Especially the girls of the “target age”. If we look at online ads/trailers/commercials, like the Hunger Games trailer or the Maze Runner, big kids are usually drawn in by the dozens to those dramatic teasers. I understand people want to encourage little kids to stay kids. But the American Girls can provide a realistic view of life, while still appealing to sophisticated girls of today. American Girl admits that girls are more sophisticated today, which is why they consolidated their books to “feel” more like volumes. So why can’t they provide advertisements that appeal to sophisticated children?

Caroline’s commercial was an example of what I mean by just plain yuck. While I thought it was cute to have the girls play with Caroline during the entire ad, and cute when they threw in some rowboat scenes, the music threw off the appeal. They could’ve at least had some adventurous music. They could’ve given some more appealing insight into her story. They could have given it an artistic feeling. The ad felt very “thrown together”. They put some girls in a room with a doll, those girls played a bit with the doll, and then they added some cheesy modern music. I liked the McDonalds commercial from several years ago better than Caroline’s commercial! They could’ve made an interesting background scene. Other doll brands, like Ever After High and Monster High, have very innovative commercials. But no. This commercial didn’t tell me anything about Caroline or her time. It didn’t make Caroline seem like an interesting doll from all of their other dolls. I saw her accessories. I saw her outfits. But I didn’t seen any creativity-I didn’t see any imagination!

Look at THIS McDonalds commercial in comparison:

But American Girl has posted some interesting videos that are far more superior than any trailers above. On Youtube.com, on American Girl’s official channel, they have saved their beautiful historical videos for others to watch. Unlike everything above, these videos are interesting and inspirational. They are like mini-documentaries or audiobooks. They give the gist of the story with engaging historical footage and thrilling background music. They are a bit lengthy. I know a commercial can’t be as long as the videos they posted (you’ll understand when you watch), BUT I think that a commercial can utilize some backgrounds from the stories to create a scene for the dolls.

A good commercial needs a good scene for the dolls. Let’s take the Monster High Freaky Fusion commercial for example (Not to go off-topic, just giving an example of what I mean).

Like the commercial above, the advertisement places the dolls in a fitting scene. The music is also fitting for the dolls. This makes the dolls seem like they live in an interesting world. This sparks interest from it’s viewers.

The videos that were posted on Youtube made me so much more interested in American Girl dolls, I want to share them. I’m so sorry that Rebecca doesn’t have one and that Caroline doesn’t have one in this style. These videos also sort of make up for the lack of historical movies. I love them. But maybe kids don’t like them. All the kids I showed them to loved them! Let me know what you people think. Check them out:

Unfortunately, these videos use a lot of the illustrations that used to be in the book series, and since the Beforever books are picture-less, who knows if there will be any videos in the future. But I will be pushing for it.

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of the vids!

If you like them, and would like Rebecca and Caroline to have similar vids, #AGBeforeverVids.

 

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