Childrearing

American Girl Just Announced Their New Historical Doll, and She’s Awesome

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American Girl dolls are pretty great, but they’ve been feeling pretty stale lately. I adored Felicity, Samantha, Kirsten, Addy, and Molly when I was a kid (actually I am so old that when I got into American Girl dolls, Addy and Felicity didn’t even exist yet). But lately it’s like my beloved historical dolls are less important than the modern dolls, and frankly the dolls were starting to feel a little monochrome. I love American Girl, but if I want to buy my kid a blonde doll that likes ballet, I can pretty much do that anywhere.

But now there’s a new doll on the way this summer, and she’s pretty fantastic. Her name is Melody Ellison and she lives in Detroit in 1963 and wants to be a singer, and her story focuses on the birth of Motown and the civil rights movement.

Author Denise Lewis Patrick says a lot of her own childhood experiences informed her take on Melody’s story, which is already available on the American Girl site and the reviews so far have been very, very good.

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I think that’s great, and as a mother this doll excites me. I’d like my daughter to learn about the civil rights movement someday, and American Girl has a history of presenting historical events in engaging and age-appropriate ways.

Also, on a purely superficial note, she’s really cute. Her dress and shoes are adorable. I’m especially obsessed with those teal shoes. It was particularly disappointing when American Girl’s second African American doll, Cecile Rey, was discontinued just three years after she was released, because Cecile had great clothes and cool accessories, and honestly, cool clothes and accessories do make playing with dolls more fun. A great story is important, but so is being fun to play with, and it looks like Melody has both.

According to the Detroit News, Melody’s accessories will include a recording studio that plays Motown music. That sounds expensive, but also really cool. (Also I like the idea of kids today hearing more Motown and less … I don’t know what kids are listening to these days, but I’ve had “Let It Go” playing on a 10-hour-loop for about three hours now, so I’d be really happy with some Motown.) Melody was also developed with the help of an advisory panel from Detroit:

“The American Girl team worked with a six-person advisory panel to develop the doll. Included on the panel were former Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, the late civil rights activist Julian Bond, and Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The panel helped nail down each detail, including the texture of the doll’s hair.”

A lot of parents have been hoping to see more diversity from American Girl dolls. A few years ago the company bothered a lot of people when it discontinued its only Asian historical doll, Ivy, at the same time that it cancelled Cecile, and there has only been one Hispanic doll. But Melody seems to be a big step in the right direction from there, and I guess the best thing to do is to buy her and hope they make more.

American Girl is at its best when it is telling stories about girls at important times in history and how those events might have impacted ordinary girls’ lives. There are a lot more stories to tell there, and as long as American Girl keeps telling them, I will probably keep giving them my money. (And OK, I’ll buy the teal shoes, too.)

Anyway, Melody is wonderful and I love her already and hope she sells millions of dolls and books so American Girl will make more like her. I like her so much I want to get her for my kid, and my kid is not even two yet and mostly just wants to suck on blocks and throw stuffed animals. I guess what that really means is that I want to buy Melody for myself. Hey, that’s OK! Grown-ups buy themselves American Girl dolls all the time. Maybe I’ll just buy her and say I’m stockpiling her for the baby. Or at least I’ll buy the books, because those sound very good.