When I visited the American Girl store in Boston, I had every intention of buying the historical doll, Rebecca. As you might recall, my shopping experience went a little differently than I'd planned, and I left with My American Girl #29...and a mini Rebecca.
I love the idea of having a doll with a miniature replica. When Annette Himstedt used to make vinyl dolls, her club characters had miniature "Kleine" versions of themselves, and this always made the club dolls more tempting to me than the regular line. My other favorite miniature doll replicas include Lee Middleton's small versions of some of the older Artist Studio babies, the delightful collection of mini Pullip dolls, and the McDonald's Happy Meal miniatures of the Liv It's My Nature line.
The American Girl minis are another example of a well-done, accurate replica of a larger doll:
|American Girl Mini, "Rebecca."|
The accuracy of the little outfits seemed fun, though, so I decided to buy Rebecca and hope that her hair would be tamer right out of the box.
The American Girl minis cost $24 and come in small cardboard boxes that have the same design as the larger doll's boxes. The box lid is red and has a small circular window that allows you to peek at the doll's face. There is a plastic covering over the circular window to protect the doll:
The tiny book is secured with a molded plastic tray that keeps it from banging around near the doll's face:
The book is really cute. It is hard-bound with a removable paper sleeve. It has the same cover as the large book, with Rebecca wearing her red meet dress. I still can't quite get used to the American Girl jargon of saying "meet dress." Too much like Lady Gaga's meat dress.
|The sleeve (L) and the book (R) have the same design.|
The book is smaller than the science textbook from the Science Lab set:
The book is a great size for a large American Girl doll like my Keira:
Rebecca's book has 32 pages. Her story is set in 1914 New York City and centers around a large Russian-Jewish family.
The text is a little hard to read, at least for my lame eyes.
The book has one full-page color illustration of Rebecca's first dinner with cousin Max:
I did manage to get through the whole story. I really enjoyed it, actually. The problem is, it's not the whole story--it's just the first three chapters. And I don't even think it's the complete third chapter. I understand that it would have been tricky to include the entire story and have the book still be a good thickness for this scale, but I had just gotten to the part about how Rebecca's cousin Ana is sick and doesn't have enough food, for crying out loud! I want to know what happens! It reminds me of that children's book in Elf that was missing the last page. Grumble. I might have to plunk down $5 on Amazon to find out how the story ends.
Rebecca is not attached to the cardboard box at all, so she can just be lifted out. That's my kind of de-boxing.
She doesn't stand very well on her own--she has to be tipped forwards in order to keep her balance. This surprised me because my Keira stands very nicely.
Rebecca looked a little disheveled right after she came out of the box. Her dress was wrinkled and her hair was messy. The hair was not held down with a hairnet:
Right away, I was disappointed by the coarse feel and spastic appearance of the hair. It's not as nice as the hair on the larger dolls. Also, the big curls make it very hard to smooth down:
In contrast, it's very easy to make the hair stand straight up!
|Rebecca meets Nikola Tesla.|
I smoothed out the dress and used my wire brush to comb the hair and try to get it to lay flat. This made things a little better. Still, the dress is very bulky and unflattering. It looks more like a heavy winter coat:
Rebecca has greenish-brown painted eyes and light brown eyebrows with nice texture. My doll has slightly wonky eyes--the pupil of her right eye is not centered, so she appears to be looking up on that side:
The painting style around Rebecca's eyes is unusual. She has painted eyelashes, but only at the edges of her eyes. She also has some green lines drawn in her hazel irises, but these stop towards the top of her eye. The overall effect is good, I think:
She has the classic American Girl painted front teeth and an adorable smile:
Her dress is made out of heavy red herringbone fabric and has black velveteen accents and decorative gold buttons made out of thread. Rebecca is also wearing black and white boots:
I didn't get any great pictures of the large Rebecca doll at the store. The doll on display was wearing the meet outfit and the accessory set (shawl, hat and pin) but you can get some idea of what her outfit looks like from this picture (or you can look at an online picture here):
The larger doll's outfit hangs nicely on her and has an elegant drop waist. I wish the smaller doll's dress was made out of a thinner fabric so that it had a more flattering fit.
The thick fabric allows the dress to hold its shape even without the doll. It also seems to hold on to those wrinkles pretty well:
It's a dark red coat with nobody inside...
The velveteen collar is fuzzy on one side and the edges are stitched to prevent fraying. I had some trouble keeping the collar nice and flat--it tends to spring up on one side or the other.
Underneath the dress, Rebecca is wearing black knit tights and white bloomers (on top of the tights):
Her boots have a lot of detail for their tiny size. They also have a few rubs and stains on them.
The boots look like spats. They are made out of white fake leather and have funny black decorative toes. They give the impression of buttoning down the sides, but actually the buttons are made of thread and the shoes open in back with velcro.
|I don't love these shoes.|
I was so happy to see that Rebecca's body is a mini replica of the normal American Girl body design. It's amazing. She has a cloth torso and the same strung vinyl joints that Keira has. Her head is even attached with a white cotton string:
Here is Rebecca's torso next to Keira:
Keira's canvas torso is a different color, but the two bodies are made the same way. I think Rebecca has a slimmer build and slightly more realistic proportions.
The tags on Rebecca's back are huge and quite annoying. I will probably cut them off:
Here's Rebecca's arm joint (left) and Keira's arm joint (right). They have the exact same design:
And here's Rebecca's joint up close:
Here are the two dolls' heads side-by-side:
Little Rebecca has quite a lively face for such a small doll. I think her smiling mouth, in particular, is really sweet. She has a very youthful face. The Rebecca character in the book is 9, but this doll looks much younger--maybe like a five-year-old?
Rebecca's body does not have too many posing options. She can do side splits...
|She tips over backwards a lot when she sits like this, though.|
But has real trouble maintaining her balance with front-to-back splits:
Here's Rebecca next to some of my other small dolls:
|Barbie Tamika, Rebecca, Lottie Autumn Leaves.|
I tried Rebecca's dress on many dolls, and the only ones who even came close to wearing it well were Pinkie Cooper...
|It's very loose on her, though.|
And my Makie, Glythia!
Rebecca's dress is so formal and bulky, I was really wishing I had some more causal clothes for her to wear. I wanted her to wear a dress that would bring out her youthful appearance. I had a hard time finding other clothes that would fit, though. Bratzillaz dresses look ok, but don't close in back:
Only Hearts Club tops seem decent, but the pants are way too long:
I almost gave up my search for new clothes, but then I remembered My Kickit doll and my Helen Kish Riley girls:
|Tonner Kickit Mischievy, Rebecca, Raggedy Riley.|
These dolls are slightly taller than Rebecca, but they have very similarly-sized torsos:
|That Kickit doll has a bizarre body.|
The Kickit dress is a bit too big, but it looks fine, and it gives Rebecca the the younger looking I was hoping for--especially with her hair pulled back:
Raggedy Riley was wearing a Boneka dress, and this fits Rebecca fairly well, too:
As I re-dressed Rebecca back into her original outfit, I noticed that getting her right hand into the sleeve of her red dress is a huge pain. The thumb is always getting caught in the fabric and it takes a while to push the fingers together and ease the hand into the dress:
Here she is back in her dress.
|Not this dress, Emily! It's 90 degrees out!|
Next, I wanted to get a good look at Rebecca's hair. She is wearing a cute little gold plastic barrette:
This unsnaps and comes out easily:
|This is a wonderful little detail!|
Rebecca's hair is nicely rooted, with large plugs of hair:
Even though the scalp is visible when I part the hair, it doesn't show during normal handling and play, and I certainly wouldn't want Rebecca to have more hair.
Rebecca's size is such that she makes a perfect doll for the larger American Girls:
She can also be a fairly convincing little sister to some of my 12 inch play dolls, like my Barbie Fashionista. She strikes me as being more in scale with the 12" Barbies than Chelsea and her friends are.
Here she is with an Only Hearts Club girl:
While the Only Hearts Club dolls are a few inches taller, they have smaller heads than Rebecca:
In contrast, Liv dolls have heads that are a bit too big to fit well with Rebecca's proportions:
Although Liv Alexis has a way with little kids:
So, I was feeling like I was done with this review, and then I remembered that several years ago, I bought an American Girl mini doll at Barnes and Noble and tucked it away to give to one of my nieces on her birthday. Something else must have come up, though, because I never gave the doll away--it just sat in my closet for four years.
The doll I bought is Kit (I thought she was the cutest at the time), and I thought it might be valuable to take a look at her in this review. She has straight, short hair--very different from Rebecca's curly mess.
Kits' packaging is a little different--maybe because she was being sold in a Barnes and Noble store? Her box is wrapped in plastic and has some information and a photograph on the back:
The text and photograph on the back of the box are actually part of a loose piece of cardboard that slides off when the plastic wrap is removed:
|Kit cost $21 in 2009.|
Other than the plastic wrap and the cardboard on the back, Kit's packaging is exactly the same as Rebecca's:
Here she is:
|She stands on her own much better than Rebecca does.|
Her face looks different from Rebecca's. I know that the larger Kit and the larger Rebecca have different face molds, but I can't tell if Kit's distinct look is because of the shape of her face, or just the painting. The difference in the eyes makes me think it's a separate mold:
Her hair is wonderfully smooth and soft and is cut short. The cut could be a little neater in back, but I like the style:
Kit also has a cute little barrette in her hair:
Her eyes are bright blue and she has the same painted eyelash pattern that Rebecca has. She has faint eyebrows and lots of very large brown freckles:
Kit is wearing a knitted twin set and a simple cotton skirt. The cardigan is connected to the shirt--it's all one piece. I was really hoping that the sweater would come off and leave a separate tank top underneath.
There are real buttons and button holes on the sweater, but it's difficult to get them connected. I did up one button and then quit in frustration:
Kit is wearing little closed-toed sandals:
The leather strap goes through a real buckle, but the strap is sewn in place and you can't un-do the buckle. Thank goodness. These shoes are really cute. They're very easy to put on and yet they don't seem to fall off too easily.
Here are Rebecca and Kit together:
They're both sweet. I like Kit's clothes a lot better, and I prefer Rebecca's pretty, freckle-free face and wide eyes. Kit's silky hair is vastly superior to Rebecca's rat's nest hair. I am impressed by how different these dolls look:
The problem is, these two make me want the larger Rebecca and Kit dolls! It would be so fun to have a few American Girl dolls and their "mini me" versions. Sigh.
Here are a few more pictures of Rebecca:
Bottom line? The concept of the American Girl mini doll is great. I love little replicas and think it's very appealing to be able to collect small versions of all of the historical American Girl characters. You can essentially buy an American Girl doll for your American Girl doll--and I enjoy recursion. After my visit to the American Girl store in Boston, I also appreciate the presence of an affordable doll in the American Girl inventory. These minis might be a welcome option for families who weren't planning to spend $100 on a larger doll, but still want a connection to the well-written historical books. The small dolls are easy to carry around, and seem like a great toy for younger children--or even for older children who want to be discrete with their dolls. The size is also ideal for kids who need a companion for trips and occasions where space is limited.
The meet outfits of the larger dolls are faithfully reproduced for the smaller girls. However, Rebecca's dress doesn't scale down as nicely as I'd hoped. While the larger Rebecca's outfit has an attractive fit and some lovely draping, the small dress is stiff and bulky and looks more like a big wool coat. Kit's outfit is more attractive, but the shortcut of sewing the sweater cardigan to the underlying shirt is disappointing and limits the outfit's versatility. The miniature clothes are removable and designed for play. I am happy with how easy it is to dress and undress these dolls for the most part, although one of Rebecca's dress sleeves is difficult to put on and Kit's sweater is very hard to button.
The hair on the mini dolls is a mixed bag. Rebecca's hair is coarse and curly and looks like a huge tangle waiting to happen. Kit's hair is short, straight and very smooth and soft to the touch. If I were to buy another American Girl mini, I would only consider dolls with straight hair (Emily is tempting!). A $25 doll with such a small amount of hair should have hair that is nice enough to last. I find Rebecca's hair unacceptable, but I like Kit's hair.
The bodies on these mini dolls were a wonderful surprise. I assumed that the dolls would have full plastic bodies, but they have cloth torsos and strung joints just like their larger counterparts. This makes them even more accurate as replicas. The flexibility isn't great, but it's more than adequate for a doll this small. I also find the faces on these dolls appealing. Their cute teeth and painted eyes give them quite a lot of character. Because the painted features look very different in real life than they look in the catalogue, and because there are little screening errors on some of the dolls, I think it's probably best to select a mini doll in person, if possible.
Overall, there are just a few things that keep me from being incredibly enthusiastic about these small American Girls. I think if the hair was consistently nice and there were additional outfit pieces for sale, I would be very excited about the whole collection. I am surprised that Mattel hasn't expanded these smaller dolls into the My American Girl domain. If there were a few basic dolls to choose from (all with nice hair) and a bunch of modern miniature outfits to mix and match, I think this would be a very popular choice at the store, and it would also increase the versatility of the mini doll play experience. For now, though, the unpredictable hair and limited outfits prevent these cute replicas from reaching their full potential.