American Girls offer glimpse into history

Tiffin-Seneca Public Library’s junior department will be hosting an American Girl Tea Party 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Girls 6 years and older, who have registered, are invited to attend this party with their favorite doll and a special adult.

Participants will learn about American Girl doll Samantha Parkington, from the early 1900s, as well as enjoy refreshments, crafts and games.

The American Girl website says the company’s mission is to celebrate girls and all they can be. American Girl’s first catalog debuted in 1986. Their catalogs offer several historical dolls, with associated books and accessories. In addition, they offer specialized dolls that can look however the customer chooses and smaller dolls for younger children.

Since 1986, 147 million American Girl books and 25 million American Girl dolls have been sold, and American Girl magazine has a circulation of more than 450,000.

In the junior department, we are most excited about the American Girl books and we have a large collection of them. For each historical doll American Girl has released, there have been several books that go with that doll. The American Girl series of books are told from the viewpoint of girls from various periods of American history.

For example, Kaya books are about a daring Nez Perce girl living in 1764, Addy books are about a courageous girl living in 1864 around the Civil War and Samantha books are about an orphan girl being raised by her proper aunt in 1904.

American Girl books belong to the genre of historical fiction. Authors of historical fiction draw inspiration for their fictional stories from actual historical events, people or settings. The authors do a substantial amount of research to ensure the events and details reflect those that really could have happened.

Unlike history books that only tell what happened, historical fiction books can give the reader a more complete picture of what it would have been like to be there.

Reading books, like American Girl, can help readers imagine themselves in another person’s shoes and understand the complexity of factors that might have gone into their choices. As Brenda Hoffman states in her article, “Historical Fiction: Criticism and Evaluation,” “through the use of historical fiction [the student] has been able to take a field trip to a place and a time long past and find some application.”

These books can pique kids’ curiosity and inspire them to search deeper into history, which can make them a great companion to enrich history lessons in school or at home. We have a large number of books in this genre, besides our American Girl books. Many of them can be found by browsing the shelves for books with a yellow “Historical Fiction” label on the spine or by searching “Historical Fiction” on the Enterprise catalog. Also, our staff is always happy to lead you to the right book.

Here are some suggestions: “Dear Mr. President: Abraham Lincoln; Letters from a Slave Girl” by Andrea Davis Pinkney would be a fitting book to read as our nation prepares to celebrate President’s Day. In this book, readers learn about life during the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency through historical photos, documents and fictional letters from a brave 12-year old slave girl who is fighting for her freedom.

“Stones in Water” by Donna Jo Napoli tells the story of boys in Axis countries during World War II who were indentured by the Nazis to work for the war effort under inhumane conditions.

Each book in the “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshis tells a terrifying and thrilling story from history, through the eyes of a boy who lived to tell the tale.

There also are many historical fiction books at the library for adults. If you aren’t already familiar with this genre, come to the library and try it for yourself. While you’re at it, be sure to encourage a young person in your life to do the same.

Becky Oswalt is the early childhood programming specialist at Tiffin-Seneca Public Library.