Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Maryellen doll and paperback book

Maryellen doll and paperback book

Fall 2015 Toys
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: American Girl
Price: $115.00

Maryellen is the latest offering from American Girl in the Beforever line of historical characters. The 18" doll comes wearing her hair in a high ponytail and dressed in a summer dress, shrug, and Mary Janes appropriate for a girl of the 1950s. Like all of the American Girl dolls, she is pricey, but she is pretty and cute and capable of standing up to years of hard play; any doll lover will be thrilled to have her as a friend.

The included book, "Maryellen: The One and Only," brings Maryellen to life: it is the story of a girl in 1954, the third of six children. At "nearly ten," she is tired of being thought of as just one of the little kids. Through a series of fun experiences and mishaps, she learns ways she can take charge of her own life and be thought of as her own person -- by her family, her teacher, and her friends. At the same time she learns what she herself really values in life.

The book enlightens modern girls on life in the 1950s and will lead to discussions about how life has both changed and stayed the same in the last six decades. The constant flow of hand-me-downs (from clothes to teachers) is a circumstance that those from big families know well but one that fewer children today than of the 1950s has encountered; the book's description of the highs and lows of fourth-grade friendships, however, is something that will ring true to every nine- or ten-year-old in America. Maryellen loves TV and Girl Scouts, two things girls of today can still relate to, but she has a degree of independence few parents in 2015 would allow a 9-year-old. As Maryellen discovers her voice and her values, her readers may find new ideas in themselves as well, ones that can carry over both to their playtime with the doll and to their own experience of the world.

Emily Crawford   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

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