Monday, November 30, 2009

Concerning American Girl

American Girl is the name of a product line put out by a company of the same name. They began with a series of books (with corresponding dolls) and have expanded from there. We discovered them when my daughter borrowed some of the books from the library. We started reading them as a family and soon we were hooked. Even the boys like to listen, and don't mind too much that it's "girl stuff".

The books are quite good. They mix a little history, a little bildungsroman, a little morality play, and a little "Stuff Girls Like", like dogs, cats, horses, clothes, etc. They teach good values, such as the importance of family, being a true friend, and being aware of and involved in the world around you. And, of course, believing in yourself.

The heroines are good and decent girls. They don't always have their priorities straight or their perspectives properly aligned, but they invariably undergo appropriate adjustment before the end. Things don't always go their way, but things do always turn out as well as they can.

In short, if I had to pick one fiction series for my daughter to take to heart, it would be these books. The girls in these books are just the sort of girls I'd like my daughter to become--and for my boys to associate with.

That's not to say they don't market the concept to death. They do. Every year they come out with a new Girl, with the corresponding product line. But their success is not undeserved, by any means, and if someone has to get my money I'd prefer it be American Girl over, say, Bratz, Star Wars, or My Little Pony. Bratz seems to be designed to produce shallow, image-obsessed girls. Star Wars is all about excitement, shallow story lines, vague morality, and pushing product. My Little Pony is all about cramming little girls' heads with cotton-candy inanities.

American Girl is about substance. It's about producing smart, confident, considerate, modest girls. It's about letting girls be girls--focused, grounded, well-rounded girls.

Tonight drove that point home pretty well. It was our family night, and it was my daughter's turn to come up with refreshments. We had a little mini-parfait made of brownie chunks, chocolate pudding, whipped topping, and candy-cane pieces. It was quite good, kinda different, and elegant-yet-simple. It turns out it was a recipe from the American Girl magazine.

I picked up the magazine for a quick glance while we were eating. The cover touted an article about throwing a "Party with a Purpose", so I flipped through the magazine to check it out. There was an article on how to throw a party for your friends centered around making hand-crafted items to take to local animal or homeless shelters. Included was a list of thoughtful questions for the girls to discuss while they worked.

I was somewhat taken back by what I saw. I belong to a church that places a great deal of emphasis on developing young women of depth, substance, and spirituality. American Girl covers the first two quite well, and goes as far as they can with the third without getting religious. I would be pleased as punch if my daughter were to come to embody all the American Girl values, quite frankly.

So I don't say this lightly: American Girl is a company on the side of parents. They're an excellent resource. Quite frankly, I wish there was an American Boy, as well. Yes, they're out to get their share of your money, but unlike most companies out there tapping into the kid and "tween" markets, they deserve it.

Bravo, American Girl. Keep up the good work. You and your products are welcome in our home and in the lives of my children.

No comments: