If you’re a girl of the 90’s, you most likely waited with bated breath for the American Girl catalog to arrive in your mailbox. It was an exciting day to flip through each page, and, if you were like me, you circled every wish list item with a bold Sharpie so your mom would never have to guess what you truly wanted. I have such fond memories of reading the catalog, the American Girl books, and playing with my treasured dolls. American Girl has had a good thing going on for quite some time.
In fact, it has been three decades now since American Girl launched their initial trio of dolls and the excitement surrounding American Girl still exists. My 9-year-old has caught the American Girl bug and she fully embraces the catalog high of my childhood - with the additional perk of visiting the American Girl store, since one exists here in the Pacific Northwest. Yes, you can see all the dolls and their accessories in person, get your doll’s hair styled, and even host a birthday party at the American Girl store at the Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood. Talk about a place where dreams come true!
Over the years, American Girl has grown to encompass not only the historical characters, but a line of Create Your Own, Truly Me, and the annual debut of a special Girl of the Year™. At the turn of 2020, a doll named Joss Kendrick joined the American Girl family as this year’s Girl of the Year™ and her characteristics and story are unlike any doll to date.
You see, Joss is hearing impaired and she wears a hearing aid due to her partial deafness. Despite her disability she strives to succeed in all she sets her heart to while setting an extraordinary example for our real life American girls. Although Joss’ story doesn’t revolve solely around her hearing impairment, Joss uniquely represents the deaf community and inspires girls everywhere to overcome the obstacles they face.
Each American Girl doll comes with a book that explains their storyline. Through that story, the author instills meaningful values like free thinking, dedication, respect, and teamwork. Joss specifically encourages girls to “fly high, defy limits, and discover the new you”. She exhibits this through her longtime passion for surfing while exploring a new love for cheer, something that doesn’t come easily due to her hearing loss.
In her first book, Joss™ is stoked to enter a surfing video contest, but she needs the help of her brother to film it. He will—but only if Joss tries out for the cheer team. She’s 100% surfer girl, but for the chance to win the contest, can Joss afford to turn down her brother’s dare?
As her second book begins, Joss is looking for new ways to soar. She’s ready to be a flyer on the cheer team, but when her act at the talent show goes wrong, Joss loses confidence. Can she renew trust in her cheer teammates to master a tricky stunt for the big competition?
To accurately represent a girl’s experience in the surfing and cheer culture as well as the deaf community, American Girl consulted with advisors like:
- Crystal DaSilva, the women’s short board champion at the 2009 biannual World Deaf Surfing Championships, plus a swimsuit and athletic wear designer
- Bianca Valenti, a big-wave surfer who takes on the most advanced waves in the world, including Mavericks in Half Moon Bay, California and Peahi in Hawaii, as well as the co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, which led the fight for equal pay for women in surfing
- Sara Jo Moen and Julie Petersen, owners of Fury Athletics in Madison, Wisconsin, a cheerleading-only gym that grows competitive teams—many that have won prestigious events
- Sharon Pajka, professor of English at Gallaudet University, a private university for the deaf, and a specialist in representations of deaf characters in adolescent literature
- Jennifer Richardson, Au.D, an educational audiologist and founder of Hearing Milestones
As a parent, I love that American Girl has used their most popular launch of the year as an opportunity to promote such amazing character building lessons while promoting all that can be conquered regardless of ability.
In celebration of Joss, the Lynnwood American Girl store will be hosting three Girl of the Year™ 2020 Cooking Decorating events on March 7th, April 4th, and May 2nd. Girls ages 6+ will have the chance to decorate cookies shaped like surfboards, cheer bows, and megaphones in honor of Joss’ story. So, grab some girlfriends - young and old - and plan an afternoon at the American Girl store to celebrate your American girl and meet Joss! While at the store you can hop on Joss’ surfboard for a fun photo, browse her entire collection of outfits and accessories, and add to that ever growing American Girl wish list.