Friday, July 30, 2021

Reading Samantha.

 To my dearest friends and followers,

It's Christmas day and I'm 7 years old. There are lots of presents under the tree for my family of 6, as there was every Christmas during my childhood.
This Christmas felt extra special and it would turn into one I would never forget, for under the tree was a large rectangular box prettily wrapped in shiny silver paper. In the box was, what I thought would be a doll - not just any doll, but an American Girl doll. Imagine my disappointment when I opened the box and there was no such doll, but a Disney's porcelain Cinderella doll.
I don't remember exactly what followed, but eventually I got around to opening the elongated rectangular box which contained the Kirsten doll by American Girl!! She was just what I had asked for and she was beautiful!
I still have her to this day and she is just as special to me as she was nearly 20 years ago.

At some point in my childhood, I decided I wanted to add the Molly doll to my collection. However, I already had several of the books from her collection, including the Meet Molly book. For some reason, I felt like I couldn't get the Molly doll because she came with the Meet Molly book and then I'd have 2 copies of the same book and I couldn't possibly do that and the thought of getting rid of one never occurred to me. Yeah, I don't get how my brain worked either. XD
Point being, I never got the Molly doll. And then at some point, I wanted the Samantha doll as well, but I went through a phase of thinking I shouldn't get her/ask for her because I felt I was too old for dolls. I am happy to say that I got past that phase and I LOVE toys again, especially dolls. I would like to point out that American Girl retired many of thee original dolls between 2010 and 2014, so it seemed like the chance of me ever getting one of those dolls was impossible. Of course, I could ways get a used doll, but I never really settled on doing that. Getting something used is never as exciting as getting something new.

Recently I borrowed all of the Samantha books from the library. For those of you who are perhaps unfamiliar with American Girl, it is a doll company started in 1986 by a woman named Pleasant Rowland. She wanted to offer something for young girls to play with other than baby dolls and the hugely popular Barbie dolls, which Rowland saw as basically an unfit toy for young girls, teaching beauty and setting unhealthy body expectations. So she started her own doll company of high quality dolls that were meant to be about 8-12 years old (the same ages as the girls who were playing with them) and teach valuable lessons through American history. Each doll was from a different time era and had a set of clothes that were historically accurate, along with a 6 book set about a girl growing up in that particular time, giving modern girls the chance to learn the history in a fun way and be able to relate to the main character.

Samantha's story takes place in 1904, where she is growing up in high society in a Victorian style mansion in New York. Her books are really good, written by 3 different authors: Susan S. Adler, Maxine Rose Schur, and Valerie Tripp. The first 2 books are written by Adler and the 3rd book is written by Schur, while Tripp wrote the last 3 books. I'm not sure why they had so many different authors write the series, but I wish Susan S. Adler had written them all. The tone of the first 2 books is, in my opinion, much more enjoyable. They're a bit slow paced and some the characters feel more stiff, but I don't mean that in a negative way at all. It actually felt more time appropriate. Samantha likes to have fun and is a very curious 9 year old, determined to lead and to achieve her goals, meanwhile her grandmother is very old-fashioned and a "proper lady", making Samantha feel as if she were in trouble when she is around her grandmother, because she knew she had to speak only when spoken to, sit up straight, and be on her best behavior.

Schur's book is very enjoyable as well, but she did leave out some of the characters we got to know from Adler's books. And then there's Valerie Tripp. I would say she became much more popular than the previous 2 authors, as she went on to write many of the American Girl books. In my opinion, her writing isn't as enjoyable though. The stories were still good, but they were very fast paced and we got to see a much more spunky and energetic side of Samantha that we hadn't seen in the first 3 books. It honestly felt to me that I wasn't reading about the same character at times, especially when Samantha would exclaim things like, "Oh gosh!" and "Jiminy!" It felt like too much, like Samantha wouldn't say that and like the story is in a slightly different time - only for the fact that Tripp's writing style did not mimic the writing style that was being written during the early 1900's, and I feel that Adler's style very much so felt like the style produced during that time.

Still, even though I know the books were targeted toward young girls, I thoroughly enjoyed them and felt like a kid again, being able to relate to Samantha on several aspects, as I remember very well how I felt about certain situations when I was her age.
I believe that American Girl was doing something very positive, with each book containing a "peak into the past" section at the back, talking about the historical events that were happening at that time in relation to the events that were happening in the story. They dared to touch on such topics as child labor in factories and dangerous conditions they faced and the next to nothing wages they made, immigrants coming from Ireland to work as servants, how awful the orphanages were most of the time, and young girls quickly growing up to be "proper ladies" or suffragists advocating for women's rights and the right to vote.
Every character and every book was so bold as to touch on the topics they did, including the trials and difficulty faced by pioneers, fighting for the freedom of slaves, winning independence from Britain, facing the Great Depression, growing up during World War II, and so much more. These were all huge moments in history and American Girl was making sure they were teaching that history and those lessons to young American girls.
I feel sad that the newer dolls being released do not have as impactful stories and they have taken away the historical sections at the backs of the the books, like they are trying to erase the history (the good, the bad, and the ugly) that shaped this country.
I think that American Girl is doing a lot of things right and I believe they are a positive influence on kids today, but I think they have also strayed away from some of the more impactful stories of their past.

That being said, I am so excited that they have rereleased 6 original characters for their 35th birthday, and I am happy to say that I now own a Samantha doll. XD
Definitely be sure to check out their website if you're thinking you want to get yourself a new doll because they are selling out fast!!
As always, thank you for reading. 

Yours truly,

Check out American Girl's 35th birthday collection!!
Check out my fantasy novel on my ko-fi shop!!

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