Wednesday, October 27, 2010

American Girls?

Recently, when desiring a quick and easy read, I thought I'd pull my Molly Story Collection off the shelf and give it a re-read.

It's been a looong time since I've read any books in the American Girl series, but Molly was always a favorite of mine so I had picked up the collection some years back. (My favorite girl, for the record, is Kirsten who has since been discontinued.) I was a fan of the American Girls when there were only three of them. Total. Samantha, Kirsten and Molly. Felicity was the new girl on the scene when I started moving past them.

I liked Molly because it was set during World War II and I liked her camping story in Molly Saves the Day. I liked her clothes and patriotic spirit. These were the things I thought of when I was of the age to really appreciate the books.

Just in case I'm having a girl, I wanted to re-read all my favorite books that I've saved or collected since I was younger to make sure I still "approve" of them. =) ("Just in case." You know.) So I cuddled up with Molly and dove back in to my childhood.

I've got to say that these books aren't half as interesting when you are in your thirties as they were when you are in your tweens.

I didn't realize then how much Molly bickered with her brothers. They really put each other down and made each other's lives miserable! I remembered the family comradeship in missing Molly's dad, who is off fighting the war in England, but I had failed to make note of the sibling angst. That part of the book (really rather) bothered me. But otherwise, it's still Molly and it's still a time period I love and I still liked her canoeing adventures.

Honestly, I'm undecided on American Girls. I know that there are more conservative readers that dislike American Girls. Certainly I'm not overly fond of what they have become in recent years. However, I have really fond thoughts of the original girls and I don't have any strenuous objections to handing them over to a daughter of mine. (I would definitely make mention of the way Molly and her siblings treat one another, but I don't know if I would feel the need to remove these books from our home library.)

Then to be honest, I'm really out of the American Girl loop. I went in their booth at the Book Expo and found a bunch of characters I was unfamiliar with and discovered that they have a girl of the year or something like that. I got the feeling that the latest editions have more of a girl power message to present, while I still feel like the older and original American Girls really sought to share a slice of history with the modern reader and give them something to connect with as they explored the past. I never remember feeling anything but a desire to try growing a victory garden or wishing that my family had a covered wagon. If there was a deeper message in the books, I never caught it.

Therefore I have a question to pose to you all - what is your opinion of American Girls? Does your opinion differ between the older dolls and the new characters? Any strenuous objections to them that you'd like to share with all of us? I'm really curious to hear from those who are more "in the know" with the latest lineup as to what their experience with the new Girls have been.

Go ahead, bloggers...I'm listening.


Gidget Girl Reading said...

We read the 2 lanie books over the summer I read them aloud to my 4 year old and my then 9 year old read them to herself.

we like the american girls but i really think the price of the dolls is outrageous and way to high. but that is just me i think since so many have the dolls. guess my girls are deprived :) oh well they don't mind.

I personally like the dear america series better. my oldest is going to read the dear america series next summer she said.

Gidget Girl Reading said...

forgot to add we LOVE Lanie she is a modern outdoor girl so right up this house's alley!

Carrie said...

You're going to have to tell me about the Dear America series. =) (Anyone?)

Re: the price of the dolls - I know it!!! I wanted one of their dolls so badly growing up but the cost was QUITE prohibitive. I told Jonathan I'm going to re-read the Kirsten books next and if I still like her a lot then I'm going to want to finally get the doll at some point. ;) We'll see. (I conditioned it on whether or not we actually have a girl.)

Annette W. said...

I was also going to recommend the Dear America series. I have only "read" (listend to on audio) two (almost three) of the books.

They tell the history of whatever time period in the form of a diary of a girl...tween or teen. I believe they are also from various ethnic backgrounds, so you get lots of points of view. The first one I read caught my eye because the girl's last name was Whipple. :)

Also, if I remember right there is an explanation of the people and time period at the end of the books.

I don't really have any background on American Girls other than what you shared and from show and tell when I taught 1st grade. If you are right about the message being changed, I think that's silly...but I bet you are right.

Beth said...

My daughter has read or listened to most of the historical books, which we seem drawn to more than the modern girls. We also have enjoyed the films for the historical girls. (Kit is my favorite!)I have to admit the stories have all the attitude of the modern girl, thrown into a a past time period, which I have talked about with my daugher. I think these are truly written for children and I have let my daughter enjoy them, plus they were great for encouraging her reading skills!

We have bought a couple of the dolls, which I felt was worth putting our money into instead of buying Barbies, Polly Pockets, other dolls and girly trinkets which can add up after a while. She takes very good care of her dolls and really enjoys them. We also waited until she was 9 until she got her first one, so I think that has a lot to do with how she treats them.

On a side note: My husband used to teach 4th-6th in a Christian school and he read Molly outloud to his classroom. They loved it, including the boys!

Dorie said...

Since you asked...
We have two daughters who read selected American Girl books. Some just are not right for our family. Those that we particularly like are Samantha and Felicity. We have a few others but those are the favorites. I will add that we do not want our girls to read all the American Girl books. Some are just not appropriate for our family for some of the reasons you were specualting about in your post.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

My girls have already enjoyed a few of the AG stories--they've particularly enjoyed Felicity and Josefina. However, I'm probably not quite as strict as others (as I should be? :-) ) in terms of covert messages, etc. They've also listened to a few of the more modern girls (Molly and Julie, maybe--I could be wrong), and Julie definitely delves into more modern topics like divorce, etc. I don't like the more modern ones nearly as much.
We've watched the Kit and Felicity movies, and I thought both were nice introductions to the time periods.
We don't have AG dolls (yet?), but my girls are still young.

Dear America is a series of books put out by Scholastic that are written in diary format and are set in different time periods. I believe there are a couple of series for older kids, too--one marketed for girls and one for boys. The boy one is My Name Is America. These books were popular among the elementary students at the school where I was librarian before my eldest was born.

Dani said...

I read American Girl growing up (I think when my sister and I first started reading them it was Felicity, Samantha, Kirsten and Molly). I was still into them when Addy was added and kinda growing out of them when Josefina was added. I had the full collections of Felicity, Samantha, Kirsten, Molly and Addy. Unfortunately I no longer have them because I gave them to friends of mine (which I'm glad but sorry I don't have them for my daughter). My inlaws still had some of my SILs that I took when my husband was getting some of the books he had as a child.

Kirsten is my favorite, followed by Molly. I do have a Kirsten doll (my sister has Samantha). I remember them being very special because we saved and paid for half of them (my parents paid the other half). I was never a big fan of the modern dolls ... I always prefered the historical. I actually started to reread the Kirsten series recently. I haven't read some of the more recent ones, but will probably try to pick them up at the library.

I might consider getting my daughter a doll as she gets older ... if she wants one (who knows if they will still be in style then). She will have mine to play with (once she's old enough to take care of it). I was sad to see that you can't get Kirsten or Samantha any longer and that Felicity is going to be retired soon.

I think I've seen the Dear America series and will probably introduce that to my daughter as well when she gets older.

Jennifer said...

I read all the American Girl books (ok, all the older ones): Felicity, Kit, Kirsten, Molly, Samantha, I missing any? I can't remember.

Addy and Kit were my favorites.

Anyway, it has been a really long time...but as a young reader (And I read a LOT of books. Ask my mom.) American Girls were really fun for me. I agree, though, that today American Girls seems a lot more about girl empowerment. I really wanted a doll, but the price was outrageous, and I bought the American Girl Magazine a few times, but I would not waste any child's time with that. It was really useless.

I also got into Dear America, which I loved because of the diary format. The one about the girl who was on the Titanic is still my absolute favorite.

There's also Daughters of the Faith, which is a lot like American Girls, except there is only one book for each girl. I can't remember if it is diary-like or not. But it is from a Christian publisher, so each book showcases the girls' faith. I liked these books a lot because the writing was up to my standards. (I don't know exactly what my standards were then, but I think they were written better than American Girls.)

A Faithful Journey said...

Have you ever heard of Life of Faith dolls? They are VERY similar to the American Girls dolls only with a faith message! Each doll comes with a little Bible!
Their are also a series of books related to each doll as well! {the author is Martha Finley}
My daughter is only 3, but my MIL loved these so much that she bought her the Elsie Dinsmore doll and I have started to slowly get her the books associated with that doll.
The only sad thing is, I heard that this company may have went out of business, but I am not sure if that is true or not since I still see the dolls and books at my Christian Bookstore.

Carrie said...

I appreciate everyone's responses on this! It's helping me to process my thoughts around them. I think I'll hang on to my Molly books and I do have the Kirsten series (that I'm hoping to re-read again soon.)

I had heard of the Life of Faith dolls...briefly somewhere. I think I might have seen an add for them. True confessions though: I cannot abide Elsie Dinsmore. I have friends who just love her but I just can't stand her.

IF we have a girl, I'm definitely going to be interested in checking out all of these sources. I'd like to know of them for just myself though too. =D (I can't deny that in my heart of hearts, I'd still like to have an American Girls doll for ME! Just for childhood satisfaction. ;D) I don't know if I should admit that!

And YES - I saw that Felicity is going to be discontinued this holiday season. So that was the particular series I figured I'd best re-read quickly and grab hold of IF there's a girl in our future before Felicity goes by the wayside. (Why are all the more historical ones discontinued?!!?)

I'll pick up a few Dear America books next time I'm at the library and check these out. Thanks for the recommendations, all!

(And feel free to keep sharing opinions if you'd like. I'm still watching and reading!)

Gidget Girl Reading said...

here is my link to my post about dear america and my america book series

Emily Kate said...

I had Molly as a child and LOVED her. I have her all tucked away for my baby girl when she gets bigger. Of course I have the books too, which to me is the best part of the dolls. I wish that they weren't retiring all the awesome old ones (Felicity, Kirsten, Samantha) and replacing them with less than stellar new ones. I would allow my daughter to have one in the future but she would have to be a historical one and one that I approved of!

And I agree that they are over priced. My mom bought the patterns and made my doll's and my sister's doll's clothes. Too bad they don't do that anymore!

B said...

"Go ahead, bloggers...I'm listening."

I saw what you did there :)

As for the American Girls, I enjoyed the original ones, but the latest additions are all pretty *meh* and interchangeable.

Julia M. Reffner said...

I have to be honest, I haven't read them, but with a 5-year-old daughter I'm curious. I'm glad to hear the recommendation of the Dear America series, I'll have to check these out at the library. Thanks for this thoughtful discussion about the books.

Unknown said...

I do love the stories -- how they tell real stories of real girls and intertwine them with history.

I think that the stories can stand alone quite well, whether or not one buys the dolls (which I agree, are expensive).

The dolls were meant for older girls, but like everything, young 4 and 5 year old girls are getting them. I think that the idea was that an older girl (8 - 12) could play with her and playact, but I don't know any girls over 9 or so who are still interested.

Krista said...

OH man do I remember American Girl dolls! I specifically remember being in the 4th grade and my teacher's two girls each getting one (they were quite a bit younger than me) and I couldn't because... yup, they were too expensive.
My favorite was Kirsten too because I'm part Swedish.
I loved the stories as well, being even more of a bookworm back then than I am now!
I recently got a new catalog in the mail (don't ask me why as I only have boys!) and was very sad to see Kirsten was gone. :( And yeah, the new ones have no personality. I'm unimpressed.
I know they now have stores where you can take your doll and have lunch together, and get pampered, etc. It seems they're just in it for the money now, not to make a quality product.

The Dear American series is pretty good. My mom had a lot of them for her classroom (5th and 6th grade) and they match the Royal Diaries (I think that's the title) series which is about princes and princesses from Europe since most of them were still teens when major things happened to them. I read the one about Marie Antoinette and it gave a lot of history and made you realize why she said what she did (let them eat cake) because she literally was never out of the palace and had no clue.

Stephanie Kay said...

Do I dare admit that American Girls was after my time? I had no clue about this series until I started having kids. Somehow we've gotten on their mailing list and receive a catalog at least once a year. Ellie snatched it up a few weeks ago and declared it only for girlies. Since she already has 2 small dolls, a real Cabbage Patch doll and my fake Cabbage Patch doll I don't see getting one of these expensive ones.

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