Stories of My Childhood: American Girl’s Kirsten series

In this series, I explore books that have had a special meaning to me as a kid. It can be any book that tells a story that isn’t a board book, counting/alphabet book, and that is one I remember well. Of course, it should ideally be good as well.

What are the books about?

It’s the 1850s, pioneering time in America. Families want farms of their own, including Kirsten’s, so their family makes the journey by boat from Sweden to America. But the journey is anything but smooth, and Kirsten’s best friend doesn’t even make it there alive. Throughout the series, and with the help of her aunt, uncle, and cousins, Kirsten moves to a new land, befriends a Native American girl, attends American school, has a barn-raising birthday party, and ultimately overcomes disaster to move to a brand new house of her own.

What do I like about the books?

The American Girl series were brilliant–a six-story series for each character, taking you through a year in the life of each. There was an introductory story, a school story, a holiday story, a birthday story, a summer story, and then a story that introduced big changes in the character’s life. At least, that was the format when I was a girl. They also came with their own doll and other spinoff books to add to your collection.

Favorite memory involving the books

I was in kindergarten when I received Kirsten as a gift. It was one of my favorite presents, and launched the American Girl era in my house (my sisters and I each had a few dolls). But my mom and I would sit on the piano bench in the living room, reading a chapter of one of the books each night. This was followed by a reading of one of the mini packets that came with Kirsten’s outfits. These tiny booklets had information about the clothes it came with, how Kirsten used them, and how they were important to the story.

Of course, playing with the doll was fun too–my sister and I came up with all sorts of stories, though I rarely played with her as Kirsten. She did have a toy doll that would come to life when our dolls were having sleepovers. And of course, who could forget bringing Kirsten to the American Girl store in New York and having a cafe dinner and getting her frizzy hair fixed?

How the books inspired me

There was a story writing kit that I think came with some type of American Girl product. Like the name stated, it allowed you to create your own American Girl character and tales. I don’t remember any of it, but I do remember that I had trouble settling on a girl to create and develop. There was a lot of text crossed out and space taken up!

My thoughts on the books today

I still love the idea of dolls with their own series, and I’m glad that this tradition continues. It did make me sad that she was retired before even getting her own movie like Kit, Molly, and Samantha did. I do hope that they continue to make diverse dolls from different time periods–the current dolls seem to be mostly more modern. Although I ultimately came to like Molly and Samantha’s stories better (their lives were more fun, and I couldn’t imagine myself living as a pioneer woman where life basically consisted of farm work), Kirsten will always have a special place on my bookshelf.

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