An American Girl Beforever Journey
By Kathleen Ernst
Available now from American Girl
I used to get the Pleasant Company catalogs for American Girl and would page through them, wanting each and every one of the dolls. I never got one, but I could go to the library and check out the American Girl books. Since Mattel bought American Girl, they've played around with the focus and product offerings. The latest is a line of choose your own adventure American Girl books. As a fan of both, I couldn't resist giving them a whirl.
The actual CYOA element could be deployed much better. You don't get to make many choices. Most of the time a section tells you to flip to the next page (or to another specific page). It's maybe one in six sections that you actually get to make a choice. Some of the storylines end very quickly, and one per book requires you to go online to read the ending. I really didn't like that element -- I had to stop and boot up my computer to read maybe six pages. It's a good idea but needs some tweaking.
I do like that each book includes a short introduction to the history of the time at the back. Caroline's story takes place during the War of 1812, near the Canadian border. It's a war I wouldn't expect the elementary-school-age audience to be very (if at all) familiar with.
In this story, you take the place of a young girl with a Navy mom who is about to be deployed and younger twin sisters. You travel back to Caroline's time using a compass. There, by Lake Ontario, you meet Caroline, whose father is a prisoner of war. Caroline is one of the American Girls who was after my time, so her story was new to me, but easy to pick up. There's lots of exciting storylines, including one involving a naval battle.
I like that CATCH THE WIND was very easy to read. I think my eight-year-old niece could manage, especially since it is divided it to short sections. This one is a good choice for a girl who is interested in war history or who has a parent in the military. Or, perhaps, for a girl who has to stick with the books because a doll is out of le parent's budget.