|This is the cover of the book when I had it!|
This is the sixth book in the Samantha Parkington series of the American Girl books. In this book, Samantha, a wealthy orphan, has just moved in with her Aunt Cornelia and Uncle Gard in New York City because her grandmother, whom she had been living with before, had recently gotten married. She received a letter from her best friend Nellie, who used to work for her family, saying that her mother and father had died and she and her sisters were now orphans and moving to New York City to live with their uncle. They end up in an orphanage and when the headmistress of the orphanage selects Nellie to go on the orphan train out west, Samantha convinces her to run away and live in Aunt Cornelia and Uncle Gard's attic. They end up taking the girls in and making them family.
Samantha grew up at the turn of the century. All of her books are written about the time period in which she was living. At the end of this book, there is a chapter called "Looking Back - Changes for America in 1904" which gives facts about life during this time. The book is completely fictitious and it doesn't take place around any specific historical event, but this last chapter helps to show how the book was accurately portraying what life would have been like for Samantha and Nellie.
I think American Girl is an awesome collection of dolls and books. Each doll is set around a different time period or historical event. Each girl has six books directly related to her and some of them have dolls and book collections for their best friend in the book, like Nellie for Samantha. The six books follow the same pattern. For example, Meet Samantha is first, followed by Samantha Learns A Lesson, about school, Samantha's Surprise, relating to Christmas holidays, Happy Birthday Samantha!, Samantha Saves the Day, a summer "action" book, and finally Changes for Samantha, in which the girl faces profound changes in their life. I think this is great so that readers can see what each time period was like, how school was set up, birthday parties, etc. and then compare with the other time period books.
From the American Girl wiki page on the creator's inspiration:
Pleasant Rowland gave two reasons for creating the line. One was to provide a doll the same age as the child who would be playing with it and present it as a friend rather than a baby to take care of or an adult to be like in the future. The other was to teach history to children with a personal focus from characters their age whom they could relate to.When I read these books, there were only seven dolls that I remember. They were Felicity (who grew up in Williamsburg!!) in 1774, Josefina in 1824, Kirsten in 1854, Addy in 1864 during the Civil War, Samantha in 1904, Kit in 1934 during the Great Depression, and Molly in 1944 during World War II. But now there are so many! I've never even heard of half of them! I also just found out Felicity and Kirsten have also been retired. It's so sad that two of the three original American Girls (Samantha, Molly, and Kirsten) have been retired!!
Below is a picture of all of the girls as of 2011 in time period order. Some of the girls look a little creepy though.. (2, 6, & 8 from the left have been retired and are no longer available for purchase)
The American Girl website also has a section for parents and teachers which has links to learning guides for each girl. I think it's really great that these books have been created for girls to read and learn about different historical times. The stories are fun and readers can connect with the characters and get a feel of what that time period was like. Another great thing is that the book comes from a female child's perspective. I don't think many historical books would have that kind of perspective for children to relate to. I'm a big fan!