Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Julie: “Let Girls Play, Too!”

Words are taken from Chapter 5 “Let Girls Play, Too” of Meet Julie by Megan McDonald.  “Dakota” is standing in for Julie’s best friend, Ivy.

“Saturday morning Julie was reading her horoscope — “Don’t hesitate; today’s the day to jump in” — when she heard Ivy’s knock.

IMG_7693“You’re here!” Julie said, leading her friend into the living room.  The two girls pushed boxes into the corner so that Ivy could show Julie her latest floor routine.

IMG_7696“Did you know Olga Korbut was the first person to do a backwards aerial somersault on the balance beam?” Ivy asked as she turned her handstand into a back limber.

IMG_7698Julie tried to copy the move, but as soon as she got into a handstand, her feet clomped to the floor.

IMG_7694“Girls!” called Mom. “What’s going on?  Sounds like a stampede of elephants in there.  Julie, please tell me you’re not bouncing that basketball inside.”

Olga Korbut was a former Soviet gymnast who won 4 Olympic gold medals and 2 silver medals.  Today she is 61 years old and a US citizen living in Scottsdale, AZ.  I don’t think Olga would approve of Ivy doing handstands in Dr. Scholl’s sandals!

American Girl, I Can’t Keep Up!

Lately I feel like American Girl is moving so fast I can’t keep up.  There’s the MegaBlocks toy sets coming out this summer, ZCrew videos (#AGZcrew) on YouTube and accompanying merchandise, Wellie Wishers dolls, a Melody sneak peek, and let’s not forget Lea!  Maryellen is ancient history by now.

My initial reaction is nostalgia for the days when AG was a few dolls with wonderful historical outfits and accessories. You chose your path… Samantha?  Addy?  That became your special friend. 

All these new items!  Will they hurt the brand identity?  

I go back to a lesson I learned in the posts on DollightfulDolls that feature lots of old catalog pages.  Even “back in the old days” American Girl tried out lots of different merchanise offerings… From a doll from the Amelia books to bath and body products to entire catalogs just for (human) girls’ clothing.  Many items have fallen by the wayside, but my feeling is that new products might bring new customers into the core business.  That’s what I hope, anyway.

In the CBS clip this morning, the American Girl marketing rep stated that ultimately American Girl is a company about stories of girls’ lives.  While I agree that a doll’s story is what motivates me as a consumer, the company’s recent action of removing the special illustrations from the books runs counter to their statement that they are all about the stories.  Maryellen and Melody’s stories both suffer as a result of no illustrations, especially for their target age consumers who won’t bother to look up words like “Afro” or references to Rosemary Clooney. Today’s 1st – 3rd grade readers are drawn to books that are borderline graphic novels, such as Geronimo/Thea Stilton, Dork Diaries, Mercy Watson, and the revamped Babysitters’ Club books.

This past holiday season one of the kids on the playground told me she was getting Grace.  I asked what her favorite AG book was, and she said, “There are books?”  

Keep innovating American Girl, but don’t forget to make the books a “must read” for kids!

Little House Laura

imageDoll friends, have you been over to The Queen’s Treasures to see the reveal of the Laura Ingalls Wilder doll?

I think she has a sweet face and expressive brown eyes.  Excellent value… For 99.00 you have Laura, her sleeping gown and cap, a quilt and pillow, her doll, and the world’s most adorable log cabin box.  I think I already forgot about Melody.

I love the respect that The Queen’s Treasures gives to kids and families.  Already have a doll who wants to be Laura?  You can just buy her clothing, including her “meet” outfit, for a reasonable $16.00.  Instead of bundling the cooking and home care items into a massive package, they are sold in smaller, more affordable bundles.

The must-have item:  Jack the Brindle Bulldog.  His muzzle is even pinkish just like a real bulldog.  It appears his nose is heavy vinyl and his eyes are plastic, not embroidered.

So glad there is now a quality play set that honors the Little House legacy.  Will we get Mary eventually?

Laura ships at the start of July.  Skip a trip to Starbucks every week and you’ll have money for Laura in plenty of time to welcome her in July!



American Girl 2017

It’s hard to write about 2017 when I am still writing the date as 2015!

Exciting news this week from American Girl author Kathleen Ernst, author of the Caroline books and many of the AG mysteries.  She is currently writing a new book for American Girl which will be released in 2017.  She isn’t able to say whether it is a new character or a book for an existing character, but I know it will be great either way.  Secretly, I hope it is a new character because it was sad to see Caroline go.  I appreciate that the Caroline books featured her relationship with her father as a main theme.

My favorite Ernst book to recommend to you (all ages) is Betrayal at Cross Creek about the Scottish immigrants forced to take sides during the American Revolution.

I hope you considering following Kathleen’s blog  . . .  maybe she will throw her fellow history lovers some more hints 🙂

Addy: Let Your Spirit Sing

A few months ago I purchased Addy’s benne candy tin (Pleasant Co) from eBay, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day seems like a good date to revisit this part of Addy’s story.

Words below are from Connie Porter’s book “Happy Birthday, Addy!”  The character M’Dear is an elderly neighbor who encourages Addy to claim a birth date of her own, since she does not know her actual birthday having been born a slave.  The date she chooses is the end of the Civil War.

Momma led Addy to one table, and there at her place was a tin of benne candies from M’Dear.

Addys Birthday Outfit

noexif_IMG_6689_private“You sure did pick a special day for your birthday,” said M’Dear.  “This is from Sunny and me.”

Addy opened the gift to find two of Sunny’s bright yellow feathers tied together with a bow.  Addy held them gently, a bit of bright sunshine in the palm of her hand.

Addy Birthday Benne CAndy“Thank you,” Addy said.  She kissed M’Dear and pinned the feathers in her hair.

Addy Sunny Feathers“Let these remind you to always let your spirit sing out,” said M’Dear.

“I will,” promised Addy. “I will.”



Maryellen Dreams of a New Dress

Words are from The One and Only by Valerie Tripp.  I have abbreviated the story.

Maryellen held the plaid dress up in front of herself as she looked in the mirror.  She sighed.

Maryellen Larkin Plaid

“Mom,” she said, “don’t you think this hand-me-down dress is sort of old and worn out?”

“Umph,” said Mom.  She was holding a pillow under her chin as she slipped a fresh pillowcase onto it.

noexif_IMG_6667_private“I sure would love a brand-new outfit to wear for the first day of fourth grade,” said Maryellen.  She got carried away, imagining herself in a chic, fashionable, grown-up-looking outfit like the ones girls wore on TV shows.  Oh boy!  Everyone would be impressed!

Maryellen Larkin Our GenerationShe said eagerly, “Mom you and I should go shopping and—”

“Maryellen!” Mrs. Larkin interrupted in a no-nonsense voice. “Carolyn’s plaid dress is perfectly fine for your first day of school.”

“OK, Mom,” . . . As one of six children, Maryellen had long ago learned the sad but true lesson that parents had only a certain amount of patience and energy and attention to give, and you couldn’t use more than your share or your parents got mad.

MaryellenShe’d save the shopping conversation for later.


Meeting Melody

Our Melody American Girl book “No Ordinary Sound” arrived today… She beat Lea’s books here which Amazon hasn’t shipped yet.  Brianna and I started reading it in tandem.  We won’t spoil the book for you, but one shareable detail is that Melody’s family calls her Dee-Dee!

If your library won’t stock the book for a while and you want to get in the mood of the early 60s, I can recommend the young adult book, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963” by Christopher Paul Curtis.  He worked in an auto factory in Michigan prior to becoming a writer.  Most of his books are award-winning.

Have any readers started Melody or Lea’s books yet?  Maryellen’s?