Over the last few days, all American eyes seemed to be focused on the eclipse — well, not so much on the eclipse, but on quizzes, blogs, posts, and articles ballyhooing how the skies would turn dark, affected cities would fall into shadows, and animals would begin to behave erratically and bizarrely. The press had a field day depicting late August’s solar eclipse as one flip-flop away from the apocalypse!
Living outside of the corridor where the natural phenomenon was visible, I peeked outside my window around eclipse time, but found nothing but cloud cover and a bright afternoon. Even my cat — a feline who should have some notion of an atavistic time clock — napped through the solar showtime. Oh, well, we didn’t see the big sky show, but we did get to read all the big Facebook posts that were celebrating this once in a lifetime event.
If you’re like me, you love things that are rare — moments that happen briefly and then dissipate, presentations that pop up for a shining minute and then vanish to be treasured and recalled. However, what I really love most are moments that endure, that can be counted on, that are reliable and relatable. With that in mind, I welcome the annual release of American Girl’s BeForever character dolls.
American Girl makes it a point to unveil dolls that key into significant moments of our history: incidents that might have happened in the blink of an eye, but have held an enduring, longstanding impact on us. Spanning the centuries since our country went from colony to world power, the doll choices are numerous. For August 2017, the doll company is studying Hawaii in 1941 — specifically the aftermath of December 7.
For history buffs, that is indeed a “day that will live in infamy,” as FDR correctly labeled it. The bombing of Pearl Harbor happened on that morning, and many Americans who weren’t even certain where Oahu and Hawaii were located became aware that the nation was under attack, and life would never be the same for them again.
The American Girl who is being saluted is fictional character Nanea Mitchell, who is nine years old and part of a close-knit Hawaiian family. Her father works at the naval base, which was bombed, and her grandparents run a market. Her older brother yearns to join the war effort, and her neighbors fear that the attack on Pearl Harbor might be just the first step of many that will squash their harmonious island paradise.
Katy Dickson, the president of American Girl, understands the connection of the past to the present — how elements of what has occurred before us continue to have a direct correlation to what we are achieving and accomplishing today.
“At its heart, our BeForever line is about building a bridge of understanding, helping girls today see the interconnectedness — the feelings, experiences, hopes, and dreams — that exists between themselves and girls from long ago,” she shared with us at the Doll Chronicles.
“We hope Nanea’s powerful story of resilience, responsibility to others, and contributing for the common good — or kokua, as it’s known in Hawaii — will resonate with girls and show them they have the power within to face the obstacles that come their way,” Dickson emphasized.
Keeping with the character of Nanea and her pledge to spread optimism and inspiration among her friends, family, and neighbors, American Girl is raising money for the American Red Cross. Funds have been earmarked for Red Cross’s Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program that provides comfort and care for members of the military, veterans, and their families.
According to Dickson, “We will match every dollar donation made at americangirl.com or at any American Girl store in the U.S. up to a maximum total donation of $75,000. American Girl is also giving $575,000 worth of its signature 18-inch dolls to the American Red Cross, in order to provide a bit of cheer to children in times of crisis.” This outreach of good cheer and goodwill will run from this week, August 21, to the end of 2017.
The week of August 21 (August 25 and 26, specifically) will feature Nanea Retail Events. American Girl retail stores will be hosting programs that educate today’s girls about what life in 1941 Hawaii might have looked like and felt like. There will be crafting opportunities, drawstring bag giveaways, hula demonstrations, and a chance to win a Nanea 18-inch doll. Throughout the year, there will be other store-based experiences that mirror Nanea’s world.
For those who can’t make it to an American Girl retail outlet, there are opportunities to grab a glance at Nanea’s life and times via the American Girl YouTube channel: YouTube.com/americangirl. On this channel, viewers can see behind-the-scenes footage, Hawaiian-themed crafts and activities, as well as learn about the development of Nanea’s biography and historical significance. On the AG website itself (americangirl.com/PlayNanea), curious kids, with parental permission, can access games, quizzes, wallpaper, and book excerpts.
The novels that are accompanying Nanea’s release trace the young girl’s efforts to comprehend how her world could have been turned upside down. Imagine that, while many of us and our children, or grandchildren, spent the past week scanning the skies for a solar happening, the real-life inhabitants of Hawaii circa 1941 witnessed planes soaring in the skies and dropping devastation below. These books will chronicle the fear and anxiety that gripped a nation, a community, a child.
For anyone who is a fan of American Girl and is in the teaching profession, or is a hands-on parent who wants to know what her child is learning and exploring, there is even a free, downloadable teacher’s guide. These supplemental items will explore the themes that are chronicled in the book series and will help put the developments into easy-to-understand and discuss language and context. (Check out americangirl.com/corporate/parents-and-teachers)
The American Girl blending of playtime and reading time is much appreciated by parents who are eager to see their children soar in academics and in personalized leisure time. An American Girl doll and its accompanying book run on a girl’s brainpower and imagination. No batteries required!