Category Archives: Historical Fiction

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?

BeForever 2016

A few blog posts ago I mentioned that the book for the Girl of the Year 2016 and the book for the new BeForever historical character appear to both be coming out on January 1. I don’t think that is a computer error on Amazon’s site.

I stopped back on my Amazon pre-order for the BF2016 book and there are more details in the listing than I remembered from last week. Publisher is listed as American Girl on January 1, 2016. The book is filed under the topics of “prejudice and racism” “1900s historical fiction” and “multicultural stories African-American.”

Can I reschedule Santa for January 2?

In other news… Has anyone received the Maryellen catalog? I really miss receiving the catalog at the same time as the doll launch.

For more on Melody Ellison, BeForever 2016, see Meeting Melody

Falling for Maryellen

Image from Amazon

Image from Amazon

I’m smitten.  Brianna finished Maryellen’s first book “The One and Only” the first day it was released.  It took me two days to finish it because I had to savor it just a little… and make dinner now and again.

I will not spoil the book for you because you simply must read it!  My first reading of the samples that Amazon posted in their “Look Inside” feature gave me the impression that this might be a “lite” book for kids.  I was very wrong.

Maryellen is a 1950s girl struggling to find her identity in a family of 6 kids.  In her efforts to be “the one and only Maryellen” she makes some poorly thought out choices.  Think Leave it to Beaver and I Love Lucy.  I truly did “LOL” during the book!  The comedic moments are accompanied by themes of being unique vs being part of a family, making our individual dreams come true vs sharing our joy with others, and seeing people as individuals vs excluding them based on groups they belong to.  This book is more Molly than Addy or Caroline.  So far Maryellen is not risking her life to intervene in the history of the day.  Her journey in the first book is inward.

Debbie Reynolds. Read the book and learn why I pinned this photo.

Debbie Reynolds. Read the book and learn why I pinned this photo.

Brianna thinks I can be too critical, but my complaints are that Dad isn’t a very developed character — at least so far.  I’m not even sure what his occupation is.  We don’t get to know him in the same was we get to know Caroline’s father in her books.  My other complaint is that the loss of small drawings in the historical books is very sad.  I made myself a Pinterest board as I read, looking up details like “Rosemary Clooney’s gown in White Christmas.”  The story is so much richer when these details have an accompanying image.  A lot of kids may not even have a reference for “coffee-cake” or “round suitcase”…. not to mention “cold cream.”  I hope that the historical dolls won’t lose their appeal as new readers discover their stories without the artwork we all associate with the original books.

Surprisingly, this is a Christmas story in Daytona!  It would make a wonderful gift during the holiday season, or could be read with a loved one who grew up in Maryellen’s time period.  Multi-generation book club?  Absolutely!

I found my heart warmed as I uncovered the deeper significance behind the clothing that is available for the doll.

The Maryellen doll may or may not be on your “wishlist” but don’t miss an opportunity to get to know her as a character.  I hope to hear your thoughts after you’ve read the book too!  No spoilers please.




Amazon, Portal into AG Future?

Lately Amazon’s website seems like the best place to decipher what American Girl has in store for us. Heather over at Dollightful Dolls mentioned in a comment to me that Amazon has a new Beforever 2016 book listed to be published on JANUARY 1 2016!!? You can visit the link here.  Clearly this would be the story for the new African-American doll that AG promised on their Facebook feed for 2016.  The author of the new book also wrote the Cecile books and Addy’s Journey book.

You have to think this is some sort of mistake… but I was able to pre-order the book and plan to keep checking up on this.  Could Lea Clark and BF2016 arrive at the same time?  Hard to believe… possible?

Meanwhile… Maryellen appears to not only be getting a Journey book, but also a mystery on March 1, 2016 for a total of 4 books.  The author of the mystery also wrote many Rebecca’s books.

Maryellen takes a break from practicing for the big “Rock Around the Clock” holiday dance to go to the beach with her friend Davy. While playing in the waves, they find a barnacle-encrusted ring buried in the sand. They imagine that it’s lost treasure from a sunken ship. But why do other people seem desperate to get the ring?

If you haven’t already done so, visit the Doll Diaries website to have an opportunity to win Maryellen!

Now I am turning you over to Brianna… Hi! It’s Brianna, I have a little update myself. The other day while shopping with my Grandma at Barnes & Noble I stumbled upon the Maryellen Mini Doll! Barnes & Noble had started selling Maryellen Books and Mini Dolls before the release date, which is tomorrow! Mini Maryellen is kind of pricey at $25. I took a good look at the Mini Doll and I saw that American Girl had a done an amazing job on Mini Maryellen. Some of the Mini Dolls don’t have the best faces but Mini Maryellen’s face is very detailed and well done!

Back to Jen…. As always, the links above are a courtesy to you and I do not receive any reimbursement from Amazon.

Get a good night’s sleep… Maryellen will be waiting for you in the morning!


Mary Ellen Books and Caroline Book Winner

noexif_IMG_6128_privateThe winner of the Caroline book “Traitor in the Shipyard” is Cindi!   She is a new reader here and we met her at the Madison Children’s Museum sale, where she was nice enough to talk to me even though I had my shirt on inside out all day!!

I wanted to give you a heads-up that the new Mary Ellen books (is it wrong to mention Mary Ellen in the same post as the departing Caroline??) are listed for pre-order on Amazon.  The boxed set is still expensive at $21.00, in my opinion, but the individual books are $ 4.94 each as of this writing.  It doesn’t seem to me that it will get much cheaper than this price!  Here is a link to the first book “The One and Only”.   I pre-ordered the first two books, which we will binge read when they arrive, and Brianna can ask for the Journey book for Christmas if she is interested in it.

(This is not a sponsored link… just FYI).


Blog Giveaway from Caroline

Caroline Mystery American GirlA month from now dear Caroline is set to retire.  We have written before of our love for Kathleen Ernst, Wisconsin-based author of the Caroline books as well as many other American Girl books.  I am just finishing her 2004 American Girl History Mystery “Betrayal at Cross Creek” and it is so good it’s keeping me from my chores!

Kathleen has confirmed that Caroline’s books are also retiring (boo-hoo)!  We would like to share a new copy of her wonderful Caroline mystery “Traitor in the Shipyard” with one lucky winner.  This book would be enjoyed by older kids or adults.


To enter:

  • leave a comment stating that you would like to enter
  • get your parent’s permission to enter if you are under 18 years
  • must be a resident of United States

Sorry, Caroline does not come with the book.  We will draw a name using random number generator on August 1 and contact the winner by email to get your address.


Books for AG Fans – St Patrick’s Day Edition

Nory Ryan's SongMy daughter has converted me into a historical literature fan.  It all started long ago reading “Addy” and “Josefina” on the couch together.  Today I work in reading instruction at an elementary school and discover all sorts of fabulous fiction at work.

Nory RyanIf you enjoy American Girl historical fiction, I recommend the book Nory Ryan’s Song.  Nory is 12 years old and lives through the first year of the Irish Potato Blight of 1845.  Nory has many traits in common with our favorite historical AGs: tenacity, bravery, caretaking, intergenerational relationships, and healing.  I have to admit that I always wondered why the Irish didn’t fish in the sea when the potatoes failed.  This book explains how truly trapped the Irish were by the English landowners.

I recommend the book for 4th grade and up.  There is nothing inappropriate in the book, but younger readers may not understand the complicated tangle of problems the Irish faced.  The book was so compelling that my husband read it too!

Nory Ryan’s Song has two fantastic sequels that follow Nory through her life.  I recommend them all.

The author, Patricia Reilly Giff, based the book loosely on her on family’s history.  Ms. Giff came to writing as a second career after being a teacher for many years.

I would love to create my own doll based on Nory, and hope some day to locate a doll needing a new wig that might be transformed into Nory.  Until then, Saige will play along.

Saige as Nory Ryan.  The red ribbon and stone wall are elements in the book.

Saige as Nory Ryan. The red ribbon and stone wall are elements in the book.