My boss has two daughters, a nine-year-old and a six-year-old who both love reading. Naturally, this means that they are pretty much my best friends. I volunteer to take them to the library or Barnes & Noble. I look forward to late nights when I get to read to McKenna (our personal favorite is Olivia Goes to Venice). I chat with the girls about what they’re reading in class, with their mom, and in their spare time on the family Kindle. The six-year-old loves Ivy & Bean and the nine-year-old is making her way through a series of books where kids get to raid Disney World at night and solve mysteries. I’m so glad they’re reading, but it makes me nostalgic for the series I loved growing up, especially these three.
By far my favorite series when I was little was the American Girl series. I was obsessed. I had all the books, a Samantha doll complete with clothes and accessories, and I would religiously study the catalogue when it was delivered to my house. Back in my day, there were only five American girls; Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly. I read and reread all their books.
Recently, one of my single-digit buddies was telling me about how she only likes the ‘new’ American Girls, meaning the ones from this century. That hurt my heart a little. I mean, those books were formulaic, but holy cow did they have some super heavy stuff going on. Felicity’s family was torn apart by the American Revolution. Kirsten’s family immigrated from Sweden and had to share a one room house together. Addy was an an escaped slave and even when she got to the north, it was still a hard knocked life. Samantha’s books dealt with suffrage and child labor. Molly’s dad was in Europe fighting the Germans in WWII! That’s a serious dose of real life right there. The books also promoted working hard, self-esteem, and the power of family and friendship. Who doesn’t love those values?!
I still remember the bright red boxcar that was on the cover of these books. Four orphaned siblings, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny make their home in a boxcar until they move in with their grandfather, who they thought was a crank but turns out to be awesome because he moved the boxcar into his backyard. He’s pretty much the coolest fictional grandpa ever. They got to have lots of adventures, solve mysterious, and accompany Awesome Grandpa on his travels. On top of all of this, they had a dog! I was so envious. These kids had a pretty good life for being parentless. Thanks to these books, I wanted a dog, a boxcar playroom, and more siblings (sorry Will! I still wanted to keep you, but I wanted more people to boss around apparently).
Ah, Laura Ingalls Wilder, how you touched my childhood. I read your books once. Then I read them again. Then, just for fun, I read them for the read aloud book whenever we played School. My favorite is still the timeless Little House on the Prarie, which I reread the most. This is another story about people who were tough. The family had survived a move to Native American territory while getting over their prejudices, disease, and the harsh everyday life of having to physically harvest stuff in order to eat. I got so attached to the Ingalls family and I remember being sad when I finished the series. I just felt like I had been through so much! These happy golden years indeed, Laura.
I know I’ve left a lot off this list (Pippi Longstocking! The Babysitters Club!), but I want to hear from all of you! Who was your favorite American Girl? Do you still fantasize about living in a boxcar? Did anyone else want to punch that brat Nellie in the face? What about the boys out there? I remember Goosebumps and Animorphs, but that’s about it. What other book series have I completely disregarded? Which ones do you want to read to your kids? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, on Facebook, or tweet me @emhof. I love to hear from you!
Have a lovely weekend, everyone. I’ll be back on Tuesday. Until then, I’m out.