Growing up, I always loved reading about history. Every time in elementary school, when it was my class’s day to go to the school’s library, I would always pick out a book from the “Dear America” series, the collection of “Who Was…?” biographies.
I was not the biggest fan of the “Magic Tree House” series, but I loved reading the companion “Magic Tree House Fact Tracker” books (I still have a sizable collection of those on my bookshelf).
But out of every history-related book, I could lay my grubby little hands on, the one that still has a special place in my heart is “American Girl” books.
American Girl is a brand that consists of dolls, books and movies. Its biggest draw for me is the historical characters. The historical character line consists of dolls from different periods in American history. The dolls have corresponding novels that tell their story.
My first core memory of American Girl was my father taking me to the movie theater to see “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl” (2008). I loved this movie. Also, I think Kit’s aspiration to work for a newspaper might have influenced the choice of my current job.
What drew me to the books was that it was history, from the point of view of girls around 8 to 11 years old, the age I was when I started reading them. The only time I saw history books geared toward girls was “Dear America.”
So much of the history we learn is by sitting in a classroom or reading dense textbooks. The “American Girl” books gave me a starting point to broaden my horizon.
The summer after I first discovered American Girl, all I read were the books. I finished so many of the historical character series. Out of all of the series I completed that summer, the Rebecca Rubin books were top-tier.
In recent years American Girl has become very popular on Instagram through American Girl themed meme pages. I follow many of these accounts because I find the memes hilarious. My friends can attest I have sent them many American Girl memes.
Samantha Parkington is still my favorite historical character. Her story takes place in the early 1900s and represents the Progressive Era. I probably reread Samantha’s books the most. The one that always stood out to me is “Samantha Learns a Lesson” because it shows Samantha’s selfless side in teaching her best friend, Nellie, to read.
Also “Samantha: An American Girl Holiday” is still my favorite Christmas movie.
A highlight for me anytime I read an “American Girl” book was the “Looking Back” section located at the back of every book. This section will delve into the stories’ real history and give context to the plot.
American Girl covers various decades from the 1700s to the 1980s. As I get older, I can appreciate how accurate the historical dolls’ clothes are. You can tell how much research goes into making each doll and story. But according to my mother, who grew up in the 70s, Julie Albright’s clothes are much cuter than what my mother wore.
For the readers who leaned more towards mysteries, the “American Girl” books have you covered. All of the historical characters have mysteries set within their universe. The mysteries had plot twists and intrigue.
The mysteries were the perfect read for those days you wanted to cozy up with a nice book. And yes, my favorite mysteries were the Samantha ones, specifically “The Stolen Sapphire” and “Clue In The Castle Tower.” But “Intruders At Rivermead Manor,” starring Kit, is also in the top spot for having a well-written and paced story that kept the younger me interested all through.
Reading “American Girl” made me feel like a time traveler hopping from one decade to the next. I could imagine myself in the story, which made reading them fun.
It might be weird for a newly minted 20-year-old to be talking about American Girl, but it is okay to still like the things you enjoyed as a child.