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

Lea Doll & Book

Lea Doll & Book

Spring 2016 Toys
Ages: 8 & Up
Manufacturer: American Girl
Price: $110.00

Lea, the 2016 American Girl of the Year doll, hails from St. Louis, but her story, featured in the accompanying book "Lea Dives In," takes place almost entirely in Brazil, so this year's American Girl has a more international flavor.

The doll arrives dressed in a Brazilian-style sundress (based on an outfit described in the book) and sandals; a messenger bag and a compass necklace (also featured prominently in the book) complete the ensemble. "Lea Dives In" tells of the first half of 10-year-old Lea's experiences traveling with her family to visit her brother on study abroad in Brazil. Lea and her family visit the coast, where Lea has to struggle to find her courage to overcome her (not entirely irrational) fear of swimming in the ocean. Along the way, Lea makes a new friend with a local girl and learns about local customs, learns how to adjust to the changes in her relationship with her brother now that she is more mature herself (yet not quite grown), and comes to terms with her high-adventuring grandmother's loss and legacy. Lea is into photography, a hobby that motivates her to move past her fears and also serves to help her keep her head cool in an emergency. An educational experience with a nature center gives an environmental side lesson on the plight of sea turtles. With the wide-ranging interests of Lea, and her very real desires for courage, respect, and friendship, almost any reader will find a way to connect with the character.

Girls will doubtless enjoy reading Lea's tale and engaging in pretend play with the doll to take Lea on further adventures. The American Girl store offers many accessories, and an additional novel on Lea's experiences in the Brazilian rain forest, for those who wish to expand Lea's world. But an active imagination and some creativity are all that are truly required to take Lea on new world experiences.

Emily Crawford   ©2016 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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