The Real Z – Book Review

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 3.41.45 PMAfter watching a few too many stop-motion YouTube videos by American Girl, I downloaded the first chapter of “The Real Z” on Amazon.  “The Real Z” piqued my interest because the school I work at has a stop-motion film-making club and I wanted to learn more.

I downloaded the first chapter for free on Amazon and I was totally hooked!  I jumped right on to my library’s website to reserve the book.  The book is written by Jen Calonita, an established author of books for teens.

The book follows the character Suzanne “Z” Yang, a 13 year-old Korean-American girl in Seattle who is a fan of making AGSM (American Girl stop motion) video blogs (vlogs).  The book is very much influenced by the #ZCrew AGSM videos American Girl has created.  I loved the twist of a book character being an American Girl fan!

Z’s character rang true to me and that’s what made me devour the book.  Z has school and neighborhood friends, but she also has online friends in the vlog world who are important to her. I thought that the inclusion of online friends was an excellent representation of safe and supportive online friendships.  In fact, I believe many tweens and teens (and grown-ups!) in the AG fandom find similar friendships that support their photography, crafting, or fiction efforts.  Z’s mom and dad view all of her vlogs before she publishes them, because, “once you publish something you can never take it back.”  Sounds like advice I have given!

I also appreciated that Z is a highly creative person, and the author accurately portrays and highs and lows associated with being creative.  The main conflict in the book is generated from Z’s creativity.

The book also helped me to learn more about Seattle and Korean-American foods.  Fun!

I am eagerly awaiting the second book in her series “Z on Location” which is released on September 12th.  If you are trying to prioritize which AG book to read next, I would put this one near the top.

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I’m rating “The Real Z” five “Coconuts”!


Surprise for Rebecca

Rrrrring.   Rrrrring.  Rebecca picked up the phone and heard an excited Lanie on the other end.

“Beckie?  It’s Lanie.  I have the BEST idea!  Can you set the garden table and put a summer dress on?  I’ll be home in 15 minutes.”

Rebecca was curious about Lanie’s plans, and jumped into action immediately.  She slipped on a purple chiffon dress and gathered up some place settings.

Beckie table

She poured a pink lemonade and put the tea kettle on for Lanie, who was a nature lover and favored Celestial Seasonings teas with pretty names like Lavender Lemon Lane.  

Everything had been great since joining the family in July, but lately Rebecca was starting to feel worried about a new school.  When she wasn’t worried about the new school, she was worried she was wasting the last few weeks of school being worried! It felt good to be pouring tea and getting ready for… whatever it was Lanie had up her sleeve.

Rebecca Garden Table

Lanie came rushing into the backyard with a big bakery box.  “Beckie, I’m here!!”

Doll Garden Table

“Wow, Lanie! You’re all dressed up too.  What’s in the big box?  Is it someone’s birthday?”

“Nope!  I heard something on the radio today and it gave me an idea… Are you ready to see what I brought home?”

Doll Tea Party

“Ta-da!  It’s a pie!” exclaimed Lanie.

“Wow, it looks delicious.  What kind is it?  And what made you think about buying a pie?”

“It’s National Lemon Meringue Pie Day!  Why don’t you do the honors Beckie and slice it up.”

Queens Treasures Lemon Pie

“I never knew there was such a day,” said Rebecca while she eased a fluffy piece out of the tin.

Lanie said, “It seems like there is a special day for everything these days, but I’m not complaining when it involves pie!  Did you brew a tea for me?  Thank you!”

“Oh, I was happy to do it.  I have to confess that it was a nice distraction.  I’m feeling worried about school starting in September. . .

“I’m sorry to hear that you were worrying, Beckie.  I know you’ll feel better once school starts, but in the meanwhile, maybe we could load up our backpacks with supplies and ask the school secretary if we can find your locker and I can show you around.  I moved in last year in February, and I know it is hard to be new.”

“I already feel so much better just talking to you… and I haven’t even tried the pie yet!”

Lemon Pie Day

Jen says... I recently purchased the pie from The Queen’s Treasures.  Little did I know that it would be just the right prop for National Lemon Meringue Pie Day!  I like the picture of Rebecca serving the pie and the happy feeling that a piece of pie is imminent.

When I took the pictures I didn’t know what story I would write.  Somehow when I hear Lanie’s voice in my head she sounds like Peppermint Patty from the Peanuts.  Our pastor preached this week about asking for help when you are facing difficult times, and I guess that message was on my mind.

Will you be seeking out a piece of lemon meringue today?  Or even making one from scratch?


Old World with Kit

Put on your bonnet, today we are off to Old World Wisconsin, a delightful living history museum where you can visit immigrant homesteads from the 1800s in a natural setting.

We have Kit with us — is there any doll easier to travel with?  Her cute hairstyle can endure all the traumas that come with doll adventures.

Our first stop always has to be the restaurant The Hen House in Eagle, Wisconsin.  You can get a breakfast with homemade white bread toast for 3.99.  I won’t pass judgement if you start your meal by sharing a homemade donut!

Old World Wisconsin is on a huge parcel of land.  There are trams to take you from one Settlement (Norwegian, German, etc.) to the other.  The buildings have been relocated here from all over the upper Midwest.

Old World Wisc

The General Store is filled with wonderful calico prints.  Kit says, “How many yards will you need of the pink gingham?”

Kit General Store

Many of the buildings have museum interpreters in period attire doing work just as it would have been done more than 120 years ago.  You may find someone spinning yarn, making soup, or feeding livestock breeds favored by early European immigrants.

Geraniums  Cucumbers sitting on the porch were a clue that some pickling was underway inside this home.  

Kit found something she could relate to in Four Mile House. 

Doll Bed Vintage

A lucky child had a full bedroom set for her doll.  The bed looked like the right size for Kit, and the doll trunk would solve some storage issues!

I found a quiet moment with Kit at the German Homestead.  

If you go, I would recommend prioritizing which Settlement you want to see most.  By the time we got to the Norwegian area, we were hot and tired.  Next time we will start there with fresh eyes.

Kit says, “There’s still plenty of nice weather to get outside and learn about the immigrants — recent or not so recent — that came to your state or province.”




Amazon Matches AG Sale Prices

I keep a continual Amazon wish list and check pricing almost every day, particularly for good deals on books for my job. Last night I noticed some of the American Girl items on my wish list showed a 30% price reduction. These were mainly Beforever items that are concurrently on sale on the AG site right now, especially parts of Melody and Maryellen's collections. American Girl's sale is through 8/7… no guarantees on Amazon.

The conversation at my house this morning about 2 minutes after my husband got up:

"Honey, did you need any help with a birthday present for me?"

"Um, I haven't really… that would be great!"

I hopped on the computer and called out, "You don't have to get anything else! I'm all set."

Not only was shipping free with our Prime, but we had over 40.00 in rewards I could use (Amazon credit card is 5% cash back).

My package won't be arriving by the American Girl's pony express, Amazon didn't try to call my husband's account by a creative new first name, and the Amazon rewards process is straightforward and doesn't require any minimum purchases to use.

What did I order for my birthday next month? I can't tell you—it would ruin the surprise!

Bookworm Gardens

Brianna and I have reached the part of summer where accelerate our fun before we head back to school.  One item on our summer bucket list was to take a trip to Bookworm Gardens  in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Bookworm Gardens has child-friendly plantings themed to match well-loved children’s books.  We brought Rebecca and Addy along on our mini road-trip.

Brianna noticed right away that the charming map’s artist was Graef – we are pretty sure it is Renee Graef, illustrator for many American Girl classics like Kirsten’s books.  She used to live in the area.

We started our tour near a lazy stream reminiscent of Jen’s favorite children’s book The Wind in the Willows.

Addy Rebecca

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats – Wind in the Willows

Addy is wearing the new Little House on the Prairie dress and apron from The Queen’s Treasures.  She heard there might be something related to Laura and Mary and dressed the part.

Addy Beckie Wagon

“The snug log house looked just as it always had. It did not seem to know they were going away.” Little House in the Big Woods

The whole time we were taking pictures we were trying to evade YMCA camps on a field trip.  In the wagon picture above, Brianna is under the seat ready to whisk the dolls away before the Y kids are unleashed!  Doll photography is a pursuit for the brave and decisive.

Rebecca Japan

This is our cry, this is our prayer: peace in the world – Sadako Sasako (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes)

A Japanese garden honors several books, including Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.  This book about Hiroshima would be an excellent  companion to Nanea’s books.

Addy Winnie Pooh

“Nearly eleven o’clock,” said Pooh happily. “You’re just in time for a little smackerel of something.”

One of the neat things to see at Bookworm Gardens is a real “Magic School Bus”!  It is a retired school bus with metal insect legs and ladybug wings attached to the roof.  We dared not enter because there were little boys in it opening and closing the bus doors fevently.  I could see an accident about to happen . . . the same feeling I get in the Trader Joe’s parking lot.

We moved on to calmer places. . .


“Twitch” is about a city mouse who moves to the country and builds his home in an oak tree.  The author, Judi Fors, was concerned that kids seemed to mostly play by re-enacting tv shows and video games, so she had a tiny door and mailbox attached to a tree at the school where she worked.  The story of Twitch was born from this experience.

Rebecca Bike

The Tin Forest by Helen Ward

If you go, we recommend arriving after 1:00, because the “afternoon nap” kids start clearing out around then.

Have you read any of the books featured in the photos above?




Nanea Preorder

Nanea (with parts of her collection included) is up on the American Girl website today for pre-order with free ship for Berry and Gold level rewards members. (Assuming you can log in and the computer doesn’t think you’re named Janice.)

  • Confirmed her name is na-NAY-ah, which means delightful and pleasant
  • I noticed she has subtle eyelash paint, which reminds me of what some bloggers have done to glam up their dolls (see We’re All Mini Mad and Say Hello to my Little Friends blogs)
  • Love her lip color!
  • Her full name is Alice Nanea Mitchell
  • The book says they came to Oahu 6 months ago as a military family.  I’m eager to discover Nanea’s heritage.
  • This is my first view of the pajamas-so pretty!  I think they will be amazing on Kanani or Lea as well

I hope the launch of the Create a custom doll (now moved to next week) doesn’t overshadow Nanea’s big splash.  They’re only 2 weeks apart, and fall at a time when most people with children are busy paying school feels and squeezing in one last family vacation.

Your thoughts on Nanea?  Any chance you will preorder and possibly receive her before the launch date?

Bring on the Cotton Candy!

What better way to start Monday than by celebrating National Cotton Candy Day!  Do you pick the pink or the blue cotton candy at the carnival?

img_7927How about forgetting that sticky mess and having a Cotton Candy Frappuccino like Isabelle? Starbucks has them on sale today.


Did you know that the Cotton Candy frappuccino is one of the “secret” drinks you can ask for at Starbucks?  There’s a Butterbeer frappuccino, a Pokémon Go frap, and even a cupcake frappuccino!  Most are made with a regular vanilla frappuccino with 4-5 added pumps of various syrups, bringing the drink to 60-70 grams of sugar, about double the amount in real cotton candy.

Cotton candy fact for the day: in England they call it candy floss.

Have a sweet day!