I loved American Girl dolls from afar when I was a kid. They were a new thing, and there was only Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly. (Even then, I thought it was weird that all the dolls were white--especially when they added a fourth white doll, Felicity, instead of the Filipina doll I thought they should create.) I read lots of the books, and while they're mostly pretty boring, I have to recommend Molly Saves the Day as being an excellent and accurate summer-camp story. And I'm sure many of you have the same story--I loved poring over the catalogue and admiring all the accessories. I was especially intrigued with their school lunches, which all looked delicious.
I think I was fourteen when I finally got Molly for Christmas.
I've only sort of kept up with new innovations in American Girl since I've grown up; the decrease in quality after Mattel took it on took away a lot of the charm for me. Laurie and I did visit American Girl Place in Chicago, though. It was fascinating to finally see the catalogue accessories in real life, but mostly I just felt like I wasn't CLEAN enough to be in that sterile environment. Also, watching the young women style doll hair at the doll hair salon, I thought that they must totally love their jobs.
Anyway, you may have heard--it was reported in the New York Times--that American Girl has come out with a Jewish historical doll, Rebecca Rubin. There's been a lot of interest and argument in the children's literature world about Rebecca--much of it from people who aren't terribly familiar with the American Girl franchise, I must say. (I don't expect much of ANYTHING from American Girl books, and I don't know why anyone would.) Also, it always bears repeating, including to me: "Your experience is not universal." I've yet to hear about any "inaccuracies" in regard to Rebecca that are really serious or even proven; one scholar will say one thing, and another will totally refute it. But seriously: we're talking about Mattel. It's not like we're choosing a Newbery winner. THAT is serious stuff.
So I was really happy to read this review in a Jewish publication, which I think has a nice balance and a positive attitude that I suspect is not misplaced. Thank you, Susan Ellman!