July 11, 2016
American Girls 2.0: nothing is sacred
by Taylor Sperry
Last week, in a press release so riddled with ™s and ®s it could make you go cross-eyed, the beloved American Girl® brand announced a new global partnership with children’s book publisher Scholastic.
Though there are already dozens of books that chronicle the lives of the American Girls published under the American Girl® corporate umbrella (Never Stop Singing: A Melody Classic 2, The Glowing Heart: A Josefina Mystery; Felicity Learns a Lesson; and Very Funny, Elizabeth!, to name a few), this is the first time the company has licensed the rights to books about their characters to an outside publisher.
Starting in January of next year, Scholastic plans to offer a wide range of books and formats for girls ages 5-12 in publications for the Girl of the Year™ line and the BeForever™ line.
This move reflects a shift that has been in the works since 1998, when Mattel bought the company from the Pleasant Company. Amy Schiller reported for The Atlantic that since the acquisition, the original dolls, whose narratives were aimed at “teaching girls to understand thorny historical controversies and build political consciousness” have been “archived” (what a euphemism!) to make room for “blander avatars who reflect only the present time period and appearance of contemporary girls.”
Will Scholastic resurrect the educational integrity of schoolteacher Pleasant T. Rowland’s original mission? Probably not, but A Girl Can Dream (surely the title of a forthcoming American Girl® / Scholastic publication).
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.