Josefina Montoya – American Girl Doll

★★★★☆

Josefina was the sixth doll in Pleasant Company’s lineup back in 1997 when I was sixteen and more interested in boys than dolls. I still wanted dolls, but I wouldn’t admit it. Oh, my sister and I bought the Spice Girls Barbies right about then, but as a joke. I mean, nobody expected we really liked those. The whole collection. And I found a Jonathan New Kids on the Block doll on eBay to keep them company. Again, as a joke.

Totally not my Scary Spice that followed me to adulthood

While I was aware Pleasant Company was continuing to introduce characters to their lineup, I was only thoroughly familiar with their first four (Felicity being the fourth, and she was the doll I saved up to buy). When Addy was introduced in 1993, I read her first book at the library, but I was twelve and didn’t want mom and dad to think I was still a kid, so I didn’t read any more (even though that first book was good), and I stopped looking at the catalog. I hated that time.

  1. You get your period. Thats horrible.
  2. You can’t like toys anymore, but your 10 year old sister can, so you encourage her to buy things you wish you could, and your parents yell at you.
  3. You don’t know what to do as an “adult” so you fall headlong into listening to all the music and decide to be a rock star (which didn’t work).
  4. You know next year you’ll be thirteen (a dreaded teenager) and start the lifelong mistake of trying to please people so they won’t think you’re one of “those” teenagers

But this isn’t a review of growing up — that would be a one star.

So Pleasant Company releases Josefina while I’m working at Claire’s, doing the most lackluster recitation of the piercing aftercare instructions. In 2000, Mattel bought out Pleasant Company and rebranded them American Girl, and redesigned the historical characters in 2014.

This review is for the BeForever (redesigned) version of the doll — more specifically the 2017 version where American Girl changed suppliers and upset the collectors. (I officially became a collector in 2015 when I went on a job interview and thought “Is this really what my life is? Why can’t I just play with dolls?” So I bought one.)

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Two sides of me in one day. In which one do I look happier? #suit #innerchild #agjulie #mta #americangirl #america

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In general, I like the redesign. Josefina’s face is more refined and cute. Unlike the other characters, Josefina’s eyebrows are sparse, but wide, every hair detailed, and often arched to make her look concerned or surprised. Mine looks inquisitive and excited.

Warm, coppery highlights streaks her black hair, hard to pick up on camera, and falls about to her knees when unbraided. Because the factory first braids the hair, then cuts it in a straight line, once you take it down, that haircut is janky. I had to go in and soften it. The hair itself is silky and a bit heavy. Really satisfying to brush and style.

Her outfit is similar to her original one. White camisa and red skirt with flowers. This skirt is a brighter red with BRIGHT BLUE flowers, and a thick pattern around the bottom of the skirt. Bloomer-type underwear.

The shoes, though. Originally, they were made of leather, like the moccasins they’re supposed to be. Not incredibly detailed, but something on the doll’s feet to hold you over until you bought an extra outfit or shoe set. The BeForever version uses the same pattern, but in a thin faux suede fabric that smacks of being homemade. Honestly, I’m going to the craft store to buy some scrap leather and make my own version of the shoes using these as a pattern.

The next negative point is the eyes. Collectors complain about the new version of the eyeballs all the time, and it’s no wonder. Originally, the eyes had a soft, grey-ish white to them, an iris/pupil segment, all covered in a cornea of sorts. It’s seamless, they close all the way, and the doll generally has an alert, focused expression. The “new eyes” have WHITES with the iris/pupil set in them, and no smooth covering. You’ll feel a ridge where the parts meet. Also, when the doll is “sleeping”, the whites are still showing. While some aren’t as bad as others, these eyes tend to make the dolls look wall-eyed or downcast, not focused at all.

My Josefina’s eyes are the new type, but it took a little digging to know for sure (I felt for the ridge between the whites and the iris). American Girl might have used a transition eye in 2017 when they changed suppliers, because they aren’t as white or expressionless as the more recent ones I’ve seen. They’re even better than my Nanea’s, who I bought at the end of 2017.

 

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So pretty 🥰 . #agjosefina #josefinamontoya #agig

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My mom bought this doll for me; my sister picked her out. Ever since I started collecting, I thought it would be fun if someone I loved surprised me with a doll — when my sister and mom went to the Madison Children’s Museum Benefit Sale this year, they did it. I’d asked her to pick up a $30 Addy for me (she did), but then I got the message “Addy picked out a friend” and I was beside myself. Of course, they toyed with me for a few hours where they didn’t tell me what they bought. I ran through the entire catalog trying to Sherlock Holmes out who the character might be, and landed on two possibilities: Melody (because she was also $30) and Josefina (because I’ve mentioned wanting her to my sister). Although Melody is cute, I’ve already got 2 Sonali molds and wasn’t interested in her (the hair flip). Josefina, though… 

Whatever details I nit-picked for the review, or noticed as a collector, whenever I look at this doll all I’ll really see is love from two of the people I care about the most.

American Girl has since gone back to their original supplier for the eyes and body fabric (which would have brought this review up to 5 stars). I recommend this doll, but while the stock transitions, be careful with your choice to ensure you get the right one for you — or have someone you trust (like my sister) pick one.


Dark Museum is now available on Amazon

Paperback UK US CA DE IT ES

ebook (also available on Kindle Unlimited to read for free) UK US CA AU DE NL ES IT MX BR IN

Cecile and Marie Grace by Denise Lewis Patrick and Sarah Masters Buckley

★★★☆☆

Cecile and Marie-Grace are ten year old girls in New Orleans, 1853 — the year of the big yellow fever outbreak. The girls pull together to help where they can and build a friendship at the same time.

The story itself is fine. I don’t have any beef with the characters (except that they’re almost never together). Switching their perspectives from book to book shows the reader what life was like for a white girl and a free person of color. I didn’t honestly see much of a difference, except for some pretty hard segregation. I’m sure there was more to it than that, and it would have been interesting to learn about. It was interesting to see how primitive their knowledge of medicine and disease were in 1853. If this were just a book for middle-grade kids to read to make history fun, I’d move on and probably never thing about this series again.

But it’s by American Girl.

The characters are supposed to be so vibrant and beautiful, I’m gonna want to want to part with all my money to buy their entire collection in 1/3 scale.

Trust me, I do want to buy their collections. I’ve already got Cecile under my Christmas tree.

I didn’t feel it from the books. Not only did I not feel compelled to buy the whole collection, the descriptions in the book barely made me want to look at it. Don’t get me wrong, the dolls and accessories they released alongside the book series was gorgeous, and I always wondered why it sold so poorly they pulled the characters in only three years.

A few theories:

  1. The illustrations.
    My god. It’s the first thing you see when you pick up the book, and they’re not only supposed to get you hyped about buying THAT DRESS, but also
    to pull you into the world of the story. The illustrations are what made me love Pleasant Company/American Girl in the first place. Come on, Felicity sitting on the rooftop eating an apple? Molly getting sprayed with the hose in her hula costume? Kirsten and Singing Bird? They were charming and magical and captured me.
    But with Cecile and Marie-Grace, the illustrations showed poor connection from character to character (often with no one really making eye contact), in scenes so vague I can’t recall what was going on in any of them.

    Since the stories overlap with the two girls switching POV, there are duplicate illustrations too.
    This is especially upsetting because I looked up the artist, Christine Kornacki, and her work is gorgeous. She really does seem like a shoe-in for American Girl illustrations but … what happened? And you’re gonna see the vignette of that bird like five times.
  2. The descriptions.
    Remember, these books are supposed to sell toys — much like Saturday morning cartoons. Even as an adult who apparently has more important things to do than add to a doll collection, when I read Kit’s series earlier this year (largely unfamiliar with her collection), the author described not only what the character was wearing, but how she felt about it. How she felt about how her room was decorated. The descriptions plus the lovely illustrations made me dive into the back catalogue where I was thrilled to see things I recognized from the books.
    With Cecile and Marie-Grace, it wasn’t like that. Ok, Cecile has a desk where she wrote letters to her brother while he was still in Paris — the desk is gorgeous (I bought it), but it wasn’t in the books anywhere (or maybe a cursory “Cecile sat at her desk”). They have a plate of beignets, beds with mosquito netting, a banquet table, and a table and chairs for the courtyard. I mean, it’s all gorgeous, but it’s not in the book. And I understand that the dolls’ run was cut short, but some of the dresses in the (few) illustrations weren’t even manufactured.

Don’t get me wrong: nostalgia plays a huge part in the enjoyment of these books. I love re-reading about Felicity, Molly, and Kirsten the most because I devoured them when I was a kid. But as an adult when I read about Kaya and Kit and Josefina and Julie, they all felt like I’d always known those characters and those stories even though it was my first read through. That’s so special.

But in saying that, Cecile and Marie-Grace’s series would have fared much better as a continuous novel instead of six books. Dividing it up gives the reader hope that the next book will be different, but they act like episodes in a show — and it got monotonous. In previous series, each book focused on one aspect of the character’s life (school, holidays, summer vacation, etc). If the company had released the characters when they did the Beforever rebrand (where the 6 book series is mushed into two books, and the story reads like one big novel), without the illustrations, the collection might have done better. They went out on a limb to try something different (they’ve never paired two girls before — always focused on one), and it didn’t work.

If you have a middle-grade kid who wants to learn a little about the olden days and yellow fever, and meet some decent characters, this would be a good series for them. For the adult collector who misses Pleasant Company, you could probably skip it.