By Allie Singer, Associate Managing Editor
Growing up, my younger sister was really into dolls. She had every outfit, accessory, pet, and set a little girl could dream of. Being the amazing older sister that I was, every now and then I joined in on her play, helping organize doll fashion shows, proms, dates, weddings... But for some reason, playing with dolls never brought me the same joy it brought her. It just didn’t click.
Then I got an American Girl® doll for Hanukkah, and everything changed. Felicity didn’t feel like a doll; she became real to me in a way no toy had before. This was a character who had endured hardships I could relate to, who had qualities I could admire and aspire to, who came to me with a fully-formed history and personality. She wasn’t just a doll; she was immediately a friend.
To say that receiving Felicity changed my life would be an understatement. As a kid, my nose was already in a book pretty much 24/7. (It’s true: Ask my parents about the nights I fell asleep holding The Phantom Tollbooth, or the day I was almost hit by an ice-cream truck because I wouldn’t look up from Little House on the Prairie.) With the arrival of Felicity and her accompanying stories, I now had a series of books about someone amazing—and that amazing someone was right there next to me, reading along.
The lessons I learned from American Girl as a child are uncountable. Here are just a few.
I learned empathy. Felicity’s story would never be my own—barring the invention of time travel, living in Revolutionary Williamsburg isn’t in the cards for me. But in a way, it was my own. I could see the subtle similarities, and I realized that two people’s stories don’t have to line up exactly in order to be connected. I learned how to empathize with people whose experiences were different than mine, and how to see all people as part of the same story.
I learned resilience. Felicity and her fellow American Girl characters rarely have it easy. The challenges they encounter never have simple fixes. But one thing they all have in common is they are strong in the face of adversity, and they find a way to do what is right, even if it is difficult. Recognizing that sense of resilience in their stories inspired me to find it in myself, too.
I learned friendship. My nose was always in a book for a reason; I didn’t have the easiest time making friends as a kid. But when I met a girl my age who lived in my neighborhood, and who loved Samantha the way I loved Felicity (and whose name was actually Samantha—hi, Sam!), we became fast friends. Pouring over the American Girl catalogs together became one of our favorite activities. There’s a connection American Girl fans young and old share that can’t be explained.
I learned self-confidence. With Felicity by my side, I became more self-reliant and sure of my choices. I learned to trust my opinions and beliefs, just as she had in her stories. Those are lessons that I still carry with me to this day, and lessons I credit in huge part to helping me reach my dreams of becoming a book editor. Who would have guessed that, two decades later, Felicity would be sitting by me at my desk as I worked on DK’s American Girl books!
I learned pride. In reviewing DK’s American Girl: Ultimate Visual Guide, and journeying from Kaya’s 1764 to Julie’s 1974, I noticed a common thread that reminded me of what exploring Felicity’s world had taught me long ago: There’s something special about being a young girl in America, and there has been for centuries. American Girl gave me a sense of history, teaching me how lucky, how incredibly lucky, I am to be one.
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