In the early 2000s, Adventists looked at the famous American Girl books and decided, huh, that’s a great idea! So they hired some writers and wrote a few sets of books called Adventist Girl. Even as a child of right age to have owned an American Girl doll (Josefina, if anyone was curious) in the early 2000s, I thought these books were terribly written. I was too young then to have been able to explain why, so I believe I gave the books that I had away. They are very pricey to obtain on Amazon now, and I’m not going to go to too much effort to obtain a copy.
To those of you who are asking why Adventists felt a need to write an alternative to American Girl, I could make some guesses. I do not think the reason has anything to do with American Girl books in and of themselves (Though there are things in those books that they would object to. Heck, there are things in some of the newer books that I object to). I think the reason these books exist is that people honestly wanted their children to know what it was like to be an Adventist girl. I believe the Adventists wanted to teach their children that Adventists have history too, and maybe to show what their lives as Adventists would have been like a hundred years ago.
However, these books ultimately didn’t sell well. At least, I think this is the case, because I ended up buying 2 sets of Adventist Girl books for very cheap.
The books I have are for the characters Heather and Alice.
Here’s the official book description. All book descriptions come from amazon.com unless otherwise noted.
An Australian adventure for a new Adventist girl The year is 1898. Heather Gibson can hardly believe her family is moving to Australia. She wonders about this land so strange, so far from home. Will she like it? Will she make any friends? This was the time when Ellen White lived there and wrote her beautiful books on the life of Christ. Sharing books about Jesus is the job of Heather’s father. And the entire Gibson family joins in the work that will win souls for the Lord. Meet the new friends and visit the amazing places that become part of Heather’s world, in these fun-to-read stories. In addition to educating children about the Adventist heritage and hope, each episode in this four-book historical series will teach young readers about the land, history, wildlife, and people of Australia. Titles are: 1. Secrets and Friends; 2. A New Life Down Under; 3. A Wedding in Avondale; 4. Going Home.
Alice is a girl living in China in 1925. Here’s the description from the Adventist Book Center website:
A China adventure for a new Adventist girl!
It’s 1925 in Portland,Oregon when a missionary—Dr. Miller—visits nine-year-old Alice Stewart’s church on Sabbath. Suddenly, everyone seems to be talking about China! At first, Alice cares more about her new birthday dress. But when Mother and Daddy decide to become missionaries to China, she starts to pay attention!
Alice dreams of parading down the streets of Shanghai, but she soon learns that being a missionary is not all fun and games. Chinese gangs are dangerous, and she’ll have to leave most of her dolls behind.
In addition to educating children about the Adventist heritage and hope, each episode in this four-book historical series will teach young readers about the land and people of China.
I can speculate on why these particular books didn’t sell as well as the other two. I think it is because going to China or Australia as missionaries is not a common thing that most children experience. The thing that I loved about the American Girl books as a child was that they were about girls doing normal things. Felicity, Kirsten, and Samantha all went to school just like me, they had birthdays just like me, they celebrated Christmas just like me, etc. Yet the ways in which they did these common things were very different than anything I would have done. Despite some anachronisms, I found the AG books to be very well researched. I’m not sure I can say the same of Adventist Girl.
Here are the other 2 Adventist Girl Characters that I’d love to get around to doing, but may not be able to:
Author Jean Boonstra takes children back in time to the days of William Miller between 1842 and 1844 and introduces them to Sarah Barnes, a plucky eight year old who lives on a New Hampshire farm with Ma and Pa, little sister Katie, and baby Emily. Even as Sarah’s family accepts the message of Jesus soon return, Sarah must keep up withe(sic) her daily chores and schoolwork and deal with the good and bad of being an “Adventitst Girl.”(sic)
quoted from the description on Amazon.com
This next character is the book set I owned as a kid. I can’t find details of what year it’s supposed to take place. 1856? I definitely recall it being the first generation after the Disappointment.
Meet Elizabeth-another Adventist girl In this second edition of the popular Adventist Girl series, author Kay D. Rizzo introduces us to another Adventist girl-Elizabeth Mayes. Nine-year-old Elizabeth Ann (“Patty-cake”) lives in a three-story boarding house and has a great imagination. One day, two mystery guests from Maine arrive at the Mayes’es house, and they are on a mission. The woman, Mrs. White, has visions from God! It all seems very mysterious, at first. As the “secret” comes out and the mission unfolds, big changes happen in Elizabeth’s family-changes that involve leaving old friends, boat and train travel, and finally a wagon train adventure Elizabeth Ann won’t ever forget. Each episode in this four-book historical series will entertain and educate children about the Adventist heritage and hope. Titles are: 1. The Not-So-Secret Mission; 2. Old Friends and New; 3. Bells and Whistles; 4. Wagon Train West.
It’s hard for me to find out just how historically accurate Adventist Girl books are. When I look up details from history, I get names, dates, battles, political events, etc. I do not get information on how people lived their daily lives. Would a girl in 1844, for example, really be that careless with paper? How common was paper in 1844? And what about the parents in Elizabeth’s books who named their baby girl “Jenny?” I didn’t think that name was popular till the 1980s.
We’re going to start with Heather. Along the way I plan to learn a little bit about Australian history. Apparently things were happening in 1898, though I very much doubt they made their way into this book.
As I read these books the main thing I will focus on is the writing. Is the writing on par with the American Girl books? Does the book showcase what life would be like for a 9 year old girl living in the time periods described? Let’s find out.