It’s a Boy! American Girl’s newest doll, Logan Everett, and the true meaning of courage

There’s a first time for everything, they say. First steps, first words, first day of school, the first time you wish upon a star, or see a whale spouting water from its blowhole. It wasn’t my topmost priority, but I added that last item to my bucket list when Dana Point’s annual Festival of Whales rolled around again last week and (drumroll, please) American Girl debuted their first-ever boy doll!

Meet Logan Everett, a drummer from Nashville, Tennessee. He shares the stage with Tenney Grant, an aspiring country singer who rocks a banjo and guitar. Logan’s “play loud” T-shirt helps telegraph his strong personality. Good for Logan, taking his place in the spotlight! A star turn by American Girl, don’t you think? More on that later, plus a book giveaway contest!

I applaud American Girl for reaching beyond the tried-and-true, expanding their 31-year-old brand to include boy dolls and all that implies. And I got to thinking: If they could muster up that kind of courage, so could I! I’d turn doubt on its ear, twist one of my own fears toward the positive. Hey, I’d even announce my plans on social media. You know, for accountability’s sake.

I picked my knees-knocking, stomach-churning fear of drowning in the deep, blue sea. It comes of a near-death experience in my childhood, but hey,  I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m willing to face my fears head-on and say, “You aren’t the boss of me!” That’s what I was thinking, anyway, when I booked myself on Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale-watching Safari. Logan would join me, of course. Go big, or go home, am I right?

No surprise, I was the last one to board. After scoping out all the potential danger zones, I eventually settled myself onto a cushy bench inside the catamaran, where I was less likely to be tossed overboard. Thisclose to the life preserver, I might add. Which, by the way, has never been used. But there’s always a first time, am I right?

Now, I’m not a back-row person by nature, so it wasn’t long before I was craning my neck to see what was happening on deck. I wanted to among the first to see a whale’s fluke, and to hear the sea lions bark! So I took some long, deep breaths, grabbed my camera, and inched myself toward the bow of the Manute’a.

As Brene Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection, “It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.”

Relax, I told myself. And oh hey, isn’t that sea spray refreshing!

I came prepared with ginger drops and Dramamine.  I white-knuckled the handrail, more times than I’d like to admit. And when I leaned forward to take these snapshots, I imagined myself tumbling headlong into Davy Jones’ Locker. But! I took the plunge anyway, and wheeee, was it ever worth it!

It’s a courageous thing, too, that American Girl introduced a boy doll in a traditionally girl-oriented market.  Tangible proof of their commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. They’ve been stepping in that direction for a while now, creating dolls from different ethnic backgrounds as well as dolls with special challenges. In fact, their 2017 Girl of the Year Doll, Gabriela McBride, is a black girl from Philly who stutters, loves poetry and dance. But Logan Elliot is the face of something entirely new.  Another first. He’ll be cherished by children who see themselves reflected in his personality and physical make-up, and he’ll also find a home with kids who are brave enough to stretch their boundaries a bit.

Smart marketing? No question. But let’s not overthink this. American Girl is leading with their hearts—the very definition of courage. And by extension, they’re inviting us to share the rewards. That’s how it works, isn’t it? When we move beyond any self-imposed limitations, we connect with everything beautiful, pure, and true in the world. We come away with bigger dreams. We tell better stories. Oh, and if you’re especially lucky on a given day, you’ll carry home one of Mrs. Capt. Dave’s triple-fudge brownies. So yummy, you’ll wanna give another go.

 *BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST: Share with us your thoughts about Logan by midnight on March 16th, and you’ll be automatically entered to win one set of books (TENNEY and TENNEY IN THE KEY OF FRIENDSHIP). American Girl is donating the prize to the winner, who will be announced on St. Patrick’s Day.  Luck o’ the Irish to you!

Here’s a sneak-peek of Logan’s first storyline, from TENNEY IN THE KEY OF FRIENDSHIP:

Thanks to her bandmate, a drummer named Logan Everett, Tenney learns the importance of collaboration and compromise. When she’s paired with Logan for a major performance, she faces the challenge of letting others add to her creative voice without sacrificing her sound.

And oh hey! I found two great interviews with the author, Kellen Hertz, here and here.

Finding Wonders

This is the one, true book, my father said. Close your eyes and bow your head. “Children should be seen and not heard,” he told me. “Do as I say, and stop asking questions!”

That wasn’t the case for the budding scientists in FINDING WONDERS, whose names you may not recognize, but whose accomplishments are renowned. From Jeannine Atkins, the critically acclaimed author of BORROWED NAMES and other favorites, comes this gem of a book. I’m overdue in sharing its brilliance.

In this historical novel-in-verse, Jeannine introduces three young girls, all of whom were born into religious families, same as I was. We share a wide-eyed curiosity about the world, but –lucky girls! — they were raised by indulgent fathers who encouraged them to challenge traditional thinking, because “Discoveries are made / by those willing to say, Once we were wrong, / and ask question after question.”

Here’s a quick blurb from the publisher, whose opinions I wholeheartedly share:

FINDING WONDERS is gorgeously written novel in verse about three girls in three different time periods who grew up to become groundbreaking scientists.

Maria Merian was sure that caterpillars were not wicked things born from mud, as most people of her time believed. Through careful observation she discovered the truth about metamorphosis and documented her findings in gorgeous paintings of the life cycles of insects.

More than a century later, Mary Anning helped her father collect stone sea creatures from the cliffs in southwest England. To him they were merely a source of income, but to Mary they held a stronger fascination. Intrepid and patient, she eventually discovered fossils that would change people’s vision of the past.

Across the ocean, Maria Mitchell helped her mapmaker father in the whaling village of Nantucket. At night they explored the starry sky through his telescope. Maria longed to discover a new comet—and after years of studying the night sky, she finally did.

Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this stunning novel celebrates the joy of discovery and finding wonder in the world around us.

And how gorgeous is this cover?

So many passages to savor, I was hard-pressed to choose a favorite! Take, for example, this excerpt about Mary Anning, whose imagination carries her further than fancy shoes ever could.

She looks towards the sea’s horizon,

which reminds her of the limits of sight.

Another country lies beyond, or so she’s been told.

Some things must be believed without seeing.

And other truths, barely imagined, found.

 

I also bookmarked this piece about Maria Merian, because it suggests a positive future for girls like me: girls who didn’t always believe what we were told, and who didn’t always do what we were asked.

What She Is Told

Women don’t cross the ocean,
at least not unless marries to merchants or missionaries.
No one has sailed to another continent
just to look at and draw small animals and plants.
Some travel to claim land for kinds, find treasure like gold,
or collect bark, berries, and pods to spice cakes.
But no one has sailed from sheer curiosity about the world.

Voyagers are in danger of shipwrecks, hurricanes,
sea monsters, or fires from lanterns tipped by high waves.
Those who survive under sails may die of peculiar fevers
in the New World. They might be eaten by jaguars.
Maria is told, You’re too old. You can’t go alone.
But nothing will stop her now.

–Jeannine Atkins, all rights reserved

Written primarily for younger audiences, FINDING WONDERS is a wonderful addition to any classroom library, for teachers and students alike.  But it’ll be equally at home in the hands of women like me–you, too? –who eventually laid claim to their own voices, and wear those stories like a badge of honor.