Just this week I was talking to my son’s teacher about American Girl. Our children are 10 and I know her daughter, like my 11-year old niece, adores American Girl. Just last year she went to the American Girl store in Orlando as part of her birthday celebration! And I know what a treat that is, because I went to the American Girl store in Chicago a few years back and was in awe. Seeing the selection in person, plus all the extra services that they provide in-store, just really beats the catalog and web site.
But for most of the year, that’s where I get my information. I follow them on Instagram and Facebook, and I get their catalog and American Girl magazine. My niece loves that magazine, although I admit I gave my last copy to my son’s friend. It’s full of inspiring real-life stories, crafts, and ways for girls to appropriately express themselves.
One of the most exciting bits of news was the release of the new BeForever Character, Melody Ellison. Melody is a 9-year old growing up in Detroit, Michigan, during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She inspires girls, because this 9 year old lifts her voice for equality and helps bring this significant time in America’s history to life for girls today.
My wise 10-year old often tells ME that the importance of history is so we don’t make the same mistakes. And I can’t help but think that with all the racial tension that a lot of America is feeling these days can be explained better to our daughters if they could read Melody’s stories. It is almost as if American Girl could predict the need for Melody’s story, though, because her development has been two years in the making with an esteemed six-member advisory board. All aspects of Melody’s development, the book, doll, outfits, accessories, issues and story setting, were all reviewed carefully by this team.
I found the team who made up the advisory board to be amazing:
- The late Horace Julian Bond, chairman emeritus, NAACP Board of Directors and founding member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
- Gloria House, director and professor emerita, African and African American Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn
- Juanita Moore , President and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and founding executive director of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis
- Rebecca de Schweinitz, associate professor of history, Brigham Young University, Utah, and author of If We Could Change the World: Young People and America‘s Long Struggle for Racial Equality
- Thomas J. Sugrue, professor of history at New York University and author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North
- JoAnn Watson, native of Detroit, ordained minister, and former executive director of the Detroit NAACP
To coincide with Melody’s debut, American Girl is launching the Lift Your Voice with Melody campaign. Starting August 20, fans can watch the Lift Your Voice with Melody video at www.americangirl.com/
liftyourvoiceand then share their own inspiring videos and photos on how they make a difference, using #LiftYourVoice. And, starting August 26, American Girl retail stores are hosting free Melody-inspired events geared for girls ages 8 and up that include a free craft, 1960s music, food, and a free gift. More details are available at www.americangirl.com/retail.
About the Doll: If you are familiar with the BeForever line of American Girl, then you know that they are classic, 18″ dolls with huggable bodies and plastic legs, arms and faces that can be posed. I received Melody Ellison to review and give my opinion on. Melody is African American with brown skin, brown hair that tumbles past her shoulders and brown eyes that blink when she lays down. She has a beautiful blue bow as a headband, which also complement her glossy, teal Mary Janes on her feet. Her white knee high socks are adorable. She has an A-Line dress on that is lime, blue and teal. Her white teeth peek out from her soft smile.
The hair seems thicker to me than the other American Girl dolls I’ve reviewed. It securely on her molded head, made of such high-quality that it can be compared to the synthetic wigs people wear! It is a thick amount of hair, I am jealous! This care in the hair design makes it a lot more realistic than the way you see it on dolls with rooted hair.
The care that goes into packaging Melody Ellison was above and beyond what I’ve seen in the past. She had the usual padding on her neck and ankles, to help prevent marking from the elastics that hold her in the box. She also had the traditional hair net, to ensure her hair arrives perfectly. But the addition this time was plastic bags covering her hands! Nice touch to ensure she arrives in pristine condition.
I think she is an excellent “first doll”, as well as a great addition to any American Girl collection. If you purchase her, she does come with Volume 1 of her 3 Volume Series. The main title is No Ordinary Sound.
About the book, No Ordinary Sound: I LOVED this book. It is a powerful book that takes place in the 60s. Nine year old Melody Ellison starts off her story excited about being asked to sing a solo at her church’s performance. At that time the most difficult challenge she faces is what song she will sing. But then she finds that her talented voice can be used in other ways. She starts seeing discrimination towards her friends and family. Her cousins family can only move into a neighborhood that is welcoming to African Americans. Her sister is helping African Americans register to vote, although some won’t because they are afraid of repercussions. Her own grandfather wasn’t paid fairly for crops, that his white neighbor ended up being paid a higher amount for. And then her sister is discriminated against for a job at a bank, because she is black.
At that point Melody decides to speak with her money. She goes to the bank, shuts down her account and tells them exactly why. That is an excellent lesson for all the girls that read this story.
But then a church is bombed, because it was an African American parish. She loses her voice, afraid to enter her own church and sing. But eventually she finds strength in a song and shares its message on Youth Day at the church. You can’t let fear hold you back.
If you like the story, it can be purchased separately from the Melody Ellison doll for $9.99. I highly suggest it.
About the book, Never Stop Singing: Never Stop Singing is volume two of the three volume set. In this story Melody uses her voice to become a leader. It is because of her speaking out that the Block Club arranges a racist, discriminating store to be picketed and boycotted. And then later, Melody realizes the inequality when her neighborhood park is allowed to go into ruins, while white neighborhood parks are cared for. She reaches out to the Parks Department, but they not only deny her request, they shut down the park for good. But with persistence and leadership skills, Melody forms a Junior Block Club that makes a difference and gets news coverage. And she does all of this while other events are trying to tear her, her family and her friends down.
These stories are so important to me. They are action packed and left me with so much more understanding about what it was like to be African American in the 60s. It can shed light on the inequality that different races face today too. I almost feel like this should be mandatory reading in 5th grade!
You can purchase these titles, Melody Ellison and a great selection of accessories at Melody Ellison’s shopping page. I love the doll and would suggest the companion books.
Tip: If you are shopping for Christmas, she does have the cutest Christmas Travel Set available, which includes her Christmas Dress, Winter Coat and “travel essentials”. I think it’s so adorable!