American Girl Books: Better Than Nothing.
I’m in the mood for understatement, so let’s just say at the outset that I’m not a fan of the American Girl commercial machine. Outrageously expensive dolls and ever-multiplying accessories for them, not to mention glammed-up stores complete with tearooms and hair salons for the dolls and their captive small owners, just don’t do it for me (consider this an understatement – see above). Among the accoutrements, though, are books. Lots of them. At latest count, there are eight dolls, each representing a different moment in history; one doll is Hispanic, another American Indian, a third African American. As of this writing, each doll has seven separate stories. You can do the math.
It’s hard to argue with even a rapacious commercial enterprise aimed at children that includes books among its objects of desire, so I won’t even try. I’m a big fan of anything that gets kids hooked on reading. Aimed at girls eight and above, the American Girl books are pretty harmless – no great compliment. Neither rollicking adventures nor seriously plot driven, here small occurrences –one girl musters the courage to admit a fib and sing in public, another learns how to be thankful despite her family’s suffering during the depression – take the place of big events. There’s little suspense, not much to jump-start a girl’s imagination, and a tone of mild moralizing. But if the books are bland (and they are) they do afford glimpses into other places and times and they do try to celebrate girls. If your daughter hasn’t already fallen under the American Girl spell, consider that a good thing. There’s a dazzling array of imaginative and stimulating literature out there for her – just ask her school librarian. If your daughter is already a fan of these books, it’s ok. At least she’s reading.
Hear what Featured Columnist Risa Green has to say about American Girls: "Barbie Flashback and the American Girl Addiction."