Getting Personal #80: My Love for American Girl

American Girl - Etsy

Image Credit: Etsy

Some of you have probably figured out by now that I have loved Pleasant Company and American Girl for, well, forever.

I wanted to give you a bit of an inside look into my love and passion for these books and the dolls!


Here’s a few articles that I read and reviewed while working on this post:


Before we dive into my love / passion for these books and dolls, here’s a brief history of Pleasant Company and American Girl.

Pleasant Company was launched in 1986 by former textbook writer Pleasant Rowland. The idea was sparked when she wanted to buy dolls for her nieces, ages 8 and 10 at the time, and the only options available were Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbies.

She then took a trip with her husband to Colonial Williamsburg, and she was inspired by the history there. She thought girls would be interested in learning more about history by connecting with dolls associated with certain historical time eras.

There were three original Historical Characters when the company started in 1986:

  • Kirsten Larson, 1854
  • Samantha Parkington, 1904
  • Molly McIntire, 1944

Here is the complete list of Historical Characters the company has created:

  1. Kaya, 1764
  2. Felicity Merriman, 1774
  3. Elizabeth Cole, 1774 (Felicity’s best friend)
  4. Caroline Abbott, 1812
  5. Josefina Montoya, 1824
  6. Marie-Grace Gardner, 1853
  7. Cecile Rey, 1853
  8. Kirsten Larson, 1854
  9. Addy Walker, 1864
  10. Samantha Parkington, 1904
  11. Nellie O’Malley, 1904 (Samantha’s best friend)
  12. Rebecca Rubin, 1914
  13. Kit Kittredge, 1934
  14. Ruthie Smithens, 1934 (Kit’s best friend)
  15. Molly McIntire, 1944
  16. Emily Bennett, 1944 (Molly’s best friend)
  17. Maryellen Larkin, 1954
  18. Melody Ellison, 1964
  19. Julie Albright, 1974
  20. Ivy Ling, 1974 (Julie’s best friend)

In 1995, the company debuted its American Girl of Today product line, where girls could pick from a variety of hair, eye, and skin colors to make their own dolls. Today, it has been relabeled several times, and it’s now branded as the Truly Me line. The company even offers dolls without hair for girls with alopecia, hair loss, or going through cancer treatments.

In 1998, Rowland sold Pleasant Company to Mattel for approximately $700 million dollars!

In 2001, American Girl launched its “Girl of the Year” (GOTY) line. With the exceptions of Lindsey (2001-2002) and Kailey (2003-2004), all GOTY dolls have only been available for one calendar year, with the new doll being unveiled on January 1st.

Along the way, several Historical Characters have been archived – Samantha and Nellie, Kirsten, Felicity and Elizabeth, Molly and Emily, Marie-Grace and Cecile, and a few others. The decision was made for all the “Best Friends” dolls to be archived by August 2014. Caroline Abbott was the most recent character to be archived, in spring 2015. The only two Historical Characters to have been brought out of the archives, so far, are Samantha, and Felicity.

In the summer of 2014, American Girl revamped its Historical Characters line into the BeForever line. The original six-book set was redesigned into two main volumes, and then what’s called a “Journey Book,” where a modern-day girl goes on a journey with one of the Historical girls.

Currently, in 2017, the BeForever line has approximately 10 characters, with the 11th being Nanea Mitchell, 1941, scheduled to officially debut at the end of August. Gabriela is the current GOTY. There is a new Contemporary Characters line of 18-inch dolls, consisting of Tenney Grant, Logan Everett, and Z Yang. Logan Everett is the company’s first boy doll. Z Yang is the first doll to be created from American Girl’s popular YouTube channel. The WellieWishers are a series of five 14.5-inch dolls, designed for younger girls. Bitty Babies are also available for children ages 3 and up.


Now, if I remember correctly, I was given my Bitty Baby doll in 1994 or 1995. I have some photos from a few vintage Pleasant Company Holiday Catalogs below.

Before I even received my first 18-inch doll, my “American Girl of Today” that I named Stephanie, I absolutely fell in love with the American Girl books!

Pleasant Company Catalogue Holiday 1991

These are the original “meet” books – This photo is from the Pleasant Company catalog for the holidays in 1991. Image Credit: Mental Floss

Before the BeForever line was introduced, each Historical Character had a “Central Series” of six books. I’ll use Molly’s name as an example:

  1. Meet Molly: An American Girl
  2. Molly Learns A Lesson: A School Story
  3. Molly’s Surprise: A Christmas Story
  4. Happy Birthday, Molly!: A Springtime Story
  5. Molly Saves The Day: A Summer Story
  6. Changes for Molly: A Winter Story

The six books cover approximately two years of each character’s life. I loved reading and re-reading these books. There were beautiful illustrations in every one! My personal library had all of Felicity’s books, and Samantha’s, in hardcover. I borrowed the rest from the library, over and over. When I was in speech therapy for most of elementary school, I distinctly remember reading Felicity’s books out loud to my parents as practice.

Eventually, I gave away most of my American Girl book collection to other girls, and the library. Now, I’ve been feverishly rebuilding my childhood library, and then some! I have a huge copy paper box in my office space that is overflowing with books. I’m so excited to get my huge bookcase from my parents, and promptly fill it up.

In addition to the Central Series, American Girl has published other contemporary titles for girls, and I owned many of them (Games and Giggles, Tiny Treasures, Help!, The Care & Keeping of You, etc.). They have also published multiple short stories and mysteries featuring the Historical Characters. I’m also very fond of the 22-book History Mysteries series, as well as the eight Girls of Many Lands books.

I will never stop loving the books!


Photo montage!

This is the most recent catalog that I received in the mail. It’s significantly smaller than the older Pleasant Company catalogs. This one is about the size of a small magazine, roughly 50 pages total.

This is one of the vintage Pleasant Company catalogs that I recently purchased from someone on Facebook. I loved looking through these as a kid, over and over.

This is my current “stash” of doll stuff in my office!

 

I have Molly’s desk at my parents’ house! I found it in really good condition from a Facebook post a few years ago – I only paid $30 for it!


This is from one of the Pleasant Company catalogs. I remember starting at these full-size photos for hours!

Here’s some photos featuring the American Girl of Today line!

I loved the Snowflake Jumper when I received my American Girl of Today, who I named Stephanie. I need to do a second blog post when I get all my dolls from Mom and Dad’s!


My Stephanie is currently dressed in the School Jumper outfit at Mom and Dad’s. I also had the Girl Scout Uniform, and I took Stephanie to a few troop meetings!


I had the Cheerleader Outfit for many years – I eventually sold in it a lot of AG clothes to a woman at my office building for her 6-year-old daughter. She emailed me the following weekend, saying that she gave the box of clothes and accessories to her daughter early, and she and her friends loved everything!


I now own the Culotte Dress after years of wanting it. Facebook is an amazing resource for all things Pleasant Company and American Girl!


I didn’t have that swimsuit set, but I did have the In-line Gear and Baxter the Bunny!


This was the outfit that my doll Stephanie arrived in, for Christmas 1997!


I remember loving all the girl outfits and accessories! My parents said no, though. They didn’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes that they knew that I would quickly outgrow!


I love the Jeweled Headband, and those AG Earrings! I also had a very similar haircut from fifth grade through middle school.


I loved these outfits – Totally 90s!

I absolutely love the older catalogs! I’ve had so much fun recently, looking through the three that I recently purchased. So many memories!!


Here’s a fun quiz:

Here’s my results:

2bf1ec0b-ae8c-4690-85a3-e684df75d79f

“Hey, Molly. You either wanted to be a Samantha but got stuck with a mom who gave you Molly (raises hand reluctantly), proudly wore glasses, loved World War II, or all of the above. Either way, be proud of your inner Molly — though you suck at doing math.”

I’ve always loved Molly! I definitely wore glasses, from sixth grade on. And I definitely suck at math!


This past week, American Girl officially launched their newest product – “Create Your Own” American Girl!

Not the best photo. But, meet Bethany, my true look-alike!


Bethany loves to daydream. Her fave place is the city, and her fave things are reading & writing.

The new doll line is a bit more expensive than the other dolls, around $200. But, after nearly 20 years of having a blonde doll, I think it’s high time that I have one that actually looks like me!

My doll collection, at the moment, consists of five dolls:

  1. Stephanie, my American Girl of Today, 1997 — Mom and Dad bought Stephanie for me for Christmas. I was a very happy 9-year-old!
  2. Molly McIntire, 1944 — Molly was the first doll that I bought with my own money, right before she was archived in 2013.
  3. Kit Kittredge, 1934 — Al bought her for me for my birthday in August 2016.
  4. Chrissa Maxwell, Girl of the Year, 2009 — I quickly identified with Chrissa’s character several years ago. Her story revolves around bullying. Chrissa came home to me in early 2017.
  5. Unnamed American Girl of Today, circa 1996 — I bought this doll off eBay in 2016, trying to help out someone on a Facebook group with creating Harry Potter dolls. That never happened, so I kept her. I may turn her into Hermione Granger someday πŸ™‚

I have a few other dolls on my wish list. Aside from Bethany, my Create Your Own, I would love to eventually own Nanea, 1941, and Maryellen, 1954.

Nanea Doll - American Girl Wikia

Nanea Mitchell, 1941. Image Credit: American Girl Wikia


Maryellen - American Girl Wikia

Maryellen Larkin, 1954. Image Credit: American Girl Wikia


As long as I live, I don’t think I will ever get “too old” for American Girl. It’s been such a staple in my life since the mid-1990s!

I’ve always appreciated Pleasant Company’s and American Girl’s dedication to historical accuracy. I give immense credit to these books for making me love history!

I’ve written Book Reviews on several of the new BeForever books, including Maryellen’s and Melody’s stories. For my birthday last week, Al bought me the two Classic volumes of Felicity’s books, and I can’t wait to read those. I’m also very excited for several new releases this winter (I may or may not have already pre-ordered these from Amazon):


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #40: “The End of Everything”

The End of Everything

Image Credit: Amazon

A couple of weeks ago, I found this book while I visited 2nd and CharlesΒ with a dear friend of mine. They opened a new location across the street from my office last year – They have every type of book, DVDs, Blu-ray, vinyl, CDs, toys, games, and more. Some things are brand-new, still in the packaging! It was only $5.00, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I immediately recognized that Abbott is the author of other books such as You Will Know Me (currently on my TBR). I was intrigued by a combination of the cover and the synopsis on the inside. And, I can’t really turn down a hardcover book for $5.00!


I found myself reading multiple chapters per night, and I ended up finishing the book after less than a week.

In the 1980s, Lizzie and Evie are finishing up eighth grade, best friends since childhood. They’re attached to each other’s hips, but they appear to be going through their own paths and struggles. What 13-year-olds don’t?

Lizzie’s dad left years ago, but her mom looks like she’s been having a man over to the house recently. Evie appears to be living in her older sister, Dusty’s, shadow, but also excelling at soccer while trying to figure out what happens next.

Then, mere weeks before eighth-grade graduation, Evie Verver suddenly vanishes. As her family and the police investigate, Lizzie proves to be invaluable, finding multiple clues and helping assemble the complex puzzle. Everyone is desperate to get Evie back, although different characters are going through different emotions and handling the situation in different ways. One suspect, from their own neighborhood, looks promising, and the intensity continues to increase.

The book weaves together the complex topics/subjects of a child abduction, painful childhood memories, blossoming sexuality, and the relationships of parents with their children. The setting was the 1980s, and Abbott stays faithful to it the entire time. She also does a good job with balancing tragedy with triumph in her writing.

The only major complaint I had was that Abbott focuses so much on the relationship between Lizzie and Mr. Verver, and then tries to also explain/develop the relationship between Dusty and her father. The lines started to blur, and it was hard to tell sometimes who Abbott was referring to, and to figure out what exactly was going on.

It was challenging to differentiate between the two, and I felt a little creeped out by the end of the book. Mr. Verver appeared to be the sweetest, least-pervy of the fathers in the book, but some of the allusions that Abbott was making, absolutely made my skin crawl. Part of me didn’t want Lizzie, Evie, or Dusty to be taken advantage of, but part of me knew that the setting was also a different era (in a way), and parent-child relationships can still be taken too far, if you catch my drift. It makes me shudder just writing it.

Abbott is a great writer overall, and I look forward to reading more of her books! I just hope this one is just a fluke.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #39: “The Lady’s Slipper: A Melody Mystery”

The Lady's Slipper

Image Credit: Amazon

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading the other reviews of Melody’s books before checking out this one:


This is Melody’s first mystery story, and I was just blown away. I read this entire book in one sitting this past Saturday night – Something that hasn’t happened in a very, very long time.

The book is set in May 1965, and Melody is going through something that we all have struggled with – Maintaining old relationships/friendships while trying to be nice and make new friends. We see her trying to keep up her relationship with her 12-year-old cousin, Val, but also admiring 14-year-old Leah, wanting to be friends with her, too. Val gets really jealous because she starts to become the third wheel, and Melody is caught in the middle. But, there’s a mystery to solve!

Melody starts to suspect that Leah is keeping several secrets, particularly about her grandfather, Dr. Roth. Slowly, Melody learns Dr. Roth escaped Poland and the Nazis during World War II. As a botanist, he wanted to save as many plants as he could. Along the way, Melody gets an education about the Jewish faith, Hebrew, and the horrors of war. She makes a connection with Leah around family, and Melody learns that she can balance time with family as well as friends.

All of these secrets are coming to light while Melody’s Poppa is busy preparing for the Belle Isle Flower Show at the breathtaking conservancy. Several mysterious and suspicious events occur while the exhibition is being set up, and Poppa is targeted because he’s the only black man in the show. Are there other suspects? Will Poppa be arrested?

This book was a bit complex, but I was very impressed in how it all pulled together. I was floored by the amount of historical detail the author packed into this book! She expertly weaved together the worlds of Europe and the United States, as well as the worlds of African-Americans and Jewish people during those time periods. And to make it all make sense, that’s impressive to me.

I hope more Melody mysteries are published – I want more!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #38: “The Runaway: A Maryellen Mystery”

If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out my other reviews on Maryellen’s books before reading this review:


This new mystery featuring Maryellen, her family, and friends, takes us from Daytona Beach, all the way to Cape Canaveral!

Scooter is the Larkin family’s beloved daschund. Maryellen grows angry with him one day after tripping over him, and sends him out of the house. Hours later, Scooter simply disappears! Maryellen is heartbroken, convinced it was her fault that Scooter ran away.

Things start to become fishy when Maryellen and her friends notice other dogs in the neighborhood have vanished. Soon, multiple suspects are coming out of the woodwork. Can Maryellen and her friends solve the case? Will Scooter return?

I finished this book, all 232 pages, in just two nights. I think it took me about 90 minutes total to read it. I love these new mysteries with the BeForever characters. I want to read them all!

A fair warning – This book may be upsetting to some who are passionate about dogs and animals, but it’s an important book to read. I’m glad that American Girl is touching on tough topics (I won’t give anything significant away here), and the historical accuracy and explanations are superb. They cover a lot of ground in this one book, showcasing how dogs and other animals have been, and still are, used for science and scientific purposes. They also tie in the space race with the Soviet Union!

I’m planning to read Melody’s (1964) latest mystery next!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #37: “The Unknown and Impossible: How a research facility in Virginia mastered the air and conquered space”

The Unknown and Impossible

Image Credit: Amazon

“I am proud to be part of a species where a subset of its members willingly put their lives at risk to push the boundaries of our existence.”

~ Neil deGrasse Tyson


Mike Holtzclaw is a good friend of mine from church and our blood drives. This year, he’s also a co-author of this amazing book. He, along with Tamara Dietrich, and Mark St. John Erickson, are all employees with the Daily Press. All part of the News division, Dietrich is the Senior Reporter – Science and Environment, Holtzclaw is a Senior Reporter, and Erickson is the Senior Reporter – History.

Mike took to Facebook a while back to make the announcement that the book was being published. I immediately went to Amazon and pre-ordered it. I was impressed – It arrived earlier than expected!

Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop! Having worked for the student newspaper of Longwood University, The Rotunda, I immediately recognized the vast amount of research, interviews, and collaboration that went into writing this book!

It’s such a quick read, but it’s jam-packed with over 100 years of history, and a look into our future. I thought I knew a lot about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Langley, but boy, was I wrong!

It’s fitting they published the book during the 100th anniversary of Langley Research Center, as well as the 25th anniversary of the Virginia Air & Space Center (The NASA Langley Visitor Center), both located in Hampton, Virginia. I remember taking many trips to the Air & Space Center as a kid, having grown up across the water in Chesapeake. I was always in awe of the exhibits and the history there. However, this book has helped me truly understand how significant Langley has been to the development of the space program, training the astronauts, and making both aviation and space travel better.

If you haven’t seen Hidden Figures, just do it. It’s not only an impressive movie, but it also shines a nice spotlight on both Hampton and Langley. I want to read Margot Lee Shetterly’s book as well. Katherine Johnson is one of the many profiles in the book, and she’s 98 years old!

I greatly appreciated the dedication to historical accuracy – The authors clearly demonstrated that. They used a vast array of sources, resources, and interviews. Thanks to their work, I now have a much better appreciation of Hampton as a city, and this great research facility that started out so small, and unappreciated. I always smile when I see the NASA logo directing people to Langley on Interstate 64 West on my way to work every weekday!

In addition to historical accuracy, I loved seeing all the photos! I loved how they were set within the text, and each one of them added something to the words on the page. Plus, the profiles of the pioneering people at the end of every chapter was really awesome to see and read, recognizing their talents and contributions from 1917 forward.

If you want to learn about how NASA came out of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), how a tiny corner of southeastern Virginia was one of the first places to pursue and develop groundbreaking research in aviation, how aviation development gave way to the space program, and what the future may behold – Absolutely, definitely read this book.

It’s a refreshing, fascinating read about 100 years that truly shaped our skies, our planet, and our future. Here’s to leaving more footprints on the moon, Mars, and more.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Awesome Authors #5: Margaret Mitchell

Margaret-Mitchell-Quotes-3

Image Credit: Relatably.com

Another Awesome Author that I was recently thinking about was Margaret Mitchell.

Confession time: I have never read Gone With The Wind all the way through. I attempted several times in middle school (mainly for the massive amount of AR points!), but never accomplished it. However, it’s on my TBR, and I’m absolutely determined to read it before 2017 ends.

Having never fully read the book also means that I’ve never seen the movie. That’s another goal of mine, but that will only happen after I finish the book.


Learning about Mitchell’s life was simply fascinating, having not known much past writing Gone With The Wind.

Born in 1900, she started writing and illustrating stories from a very early age. Her mother kept many of them, and several boxes of stories were still in the house when Mitchell left for college. She was a very imaginative child, making up fairy tales, cowboys and Indians stories, and more.

Starting in 1922, she wrote feature articles for The Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. Although her journalism career was short-lived due to a persistent ankle injury, she wrote 129 feature articles, 85 news stories, and several book reviews in the span of four years.

Her husband, John Marsh, was part of the inspiration for Mitchell (known as Peggy by then) to write Gone With The Wind. Having left journalism due to her ankle injury, John grew tired of constantly lugging books back and forth from their house to the library, and finally said to her,

“For God’s sake, Peggy, can’t you write a book instead of reading thousands of them?”


Sadly, Mitchell’s life was dramatically cut short. She died at age 48 when she was hit by a speeding car while crossing the street with her husband in Atlanta. She never fully regained consciousness. The driver was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and served 11 months in jail.


While she is best known for Gone With The Wind, I wanted to highlight a few more of Mitchell’s works. Incredibly, she destroyed some of her manuscripts herself, and others were destroyed after she died!

Lost Laysen (completed 1916, published 1996)

Lost Laysen

Image Credit: Amazon

Reading about this novella was amazing! I definitely want to read it, if I can find it. I’m so glad it was published, even though it took 80 years.

The Big Four (never published)

As a teenager, Mitchell wrote The Big Four, a 400-page novel about girls in a boarding school. At this point, it is thought to be lost. This makes me sad – It sounds like an intriguing story.

Before Scarlett: Girlhood Writings of Margaret Mitchell (2010)

Before Scarlett

Image Credit: Amazon

This book is a collection of 28 of Mitchell’s early writings. The description on Amazon sounds so intriguing. It makes me think of me, in a way, when I wrote stories as a child. I’m considering adding this one to my TBR – I hope my library has it!


I leave you with this inspirational quote from the author herself:

“I had every detail clear in my mind before I sat down to the typewriter.”


What about you? Have you read Gone With The Wind? Have you read anything else by Margaret Mitchell?

Come back next month for another exciting installment of Awesome Authors!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚

Book Review #36: “The Lost Symbol”

The Lost Symbol

Image Credit: Target

If you’re curious about other books involving protagonist Robert Langdon, here are my previous Book Review posts:


Dan Brown has done it again!

Like Angels & Demons, this book was really long – Over 500 pages. However, I didn’t mind that it was so long. It was action-packed, and I learned so much about Washington, D.C.

However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to read this book in one sitting. It’s so dense, I found myself taking multiple breaks, sometimes days at a time, in order to process all of the information. It wasn’t necessarily a turn-off, but it was a challenge. The longest stretch was a few nights ago, when I read Chapters 78 through 112. I needed a day-long break before starting again. Luckily, reading through Chapter 112 brought me closer to the end – I finally finished last night, around 10:30 p.m.

Langdon’s adventure this time is set primarily in Washington, D.C., with a few scenes in Maryland and northern Virginia. If you’ve ever been curious about the Masons and their history, this is a good book to learn about them!

For once, I greatly appreciated the lack of a romance aspect. This book appeared to focus on the various mysteries surrounding Langdon, especially since these 500 pages are set, for the most part, within just one night in the characters’ lives. I’d be happy to eventually see Langdon and Katherine end up together – I think they have a lot in common – but I was excited that the book primarily focused on solving the mysteries!

Again, like his other books, I really liked and appreciated Brown’s attention to detail and historical accuracy. It was incredible to see just how much history is jam-packed into Washington, D.C. Reading his books has taught me so much about our world’s various secret societies and great mysteries!

This book was a great mix of an intense thriller and historical novel. When I was able to wrap my mind around everything that was happening, I found myself flying through the pages. I think Brown is clever to mix up the length of his chapters – Some were long, some were a few pages, and a handful were either one page or a half-page. It’s a great way to keep the reader interested and wanting to read “just one more chapter” before turning out the lights.

Following the chronology of Robert Langdon’s character, I now need to find a copy of Inferno (2013).Β Hopefully, I can read that one right before Origin is released in early October!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth πŸ™‚