Sunday, January 26, 2014

Extra Special Dolls

There has been a lot of talk lately about the new Girl of the Year from American Girl.  Isabelle is a fair-skinned, blonde, hazel-eyed ballerina who likes to design clothing.  There's certainly nothing wrong with any of these traits (or with the doll--she's very cute), but there's also nothing at all exciting or new about Isabelle.  At first glance, she seems an awful lot like McKenna.  As a consumer, this doesn't bother me.  Since I only have one American Girl doll, I'm not relying on the Girl of the Year to add something new to my collection.  As an impassioned observer of the doll world, however, Isabelle is disappointing.  The Girl of the Year series seems like a wonderful opportunity to introduce a character that is surprising, timely or unique in some way.  Mattel could have done something to represent the incredible diversity of this country--while keeping the popular ballet theme.  I mean, just watch the wonderful documentary, First Position, and pick almost any of those amazing young women as an inspiration.

Anyway, I am bringing up this topic not because I want to upset people or spark a debate, but simply because I want to draw a contrast and explain my rationale for this review.  Discussions about the lack of diversity in the Girl of the Year series made me think about doll diversity on a larger scale.  This thought process led me to discover a new 18 inch play doll that represents a minority I have never seen portrayed in the doll world before.

Meet Gracie, a doll designed to resemble a child with Down syndrome:

Extra Special Dolls Grace
"Grace" by Extra Special Dolls.
I stumbled upon the Extra Special Doll company because of a news article that popped up while I was researching the diversity of 18" dolls.  The company was founded by Connie Feda, whose daughter Hannah has Down syndrome.  Connie and Hannah were frustrated by the absence of dolls that accurately portray children with this genetic syndrome.  I have seen how fun and special it can be for a child to have a doll lookalike, and so I totally understand Connie and Hannah's frustration at not being able to find a suitable doll.  Connie embarked on a project to design and manufacture a doll that not only shares the physical features of a child with Down syndrome, but accommodates the motor skills of these children, too.  The talented artist Karen Scott helped transform Connie and Hannah's vision into a reality.

My favorite quote of Connie's is, "I want Hannah to see a doll with Down syndrome and see something beautiful, because that's what I see when I look at her" (Huffington Post, 3/18/2013).

After launching a Kickstarter project and pre-selling dolls to help fund the manufacturing process, Connie opened her online store in late November.  Connie currently offers about 27 different dolls (9 boys and 18 girls), all with the same face mold.  The dolls come in one of four vinyl shades (fair, olive, light brown and dark brown) and each doll has a different hair and eye color combination.

I purchased Grace ($95) who has fair skin and (surprise, surprise) red hair.  She arrived in a colorful cardboard box with a small window:

I should add that the customer service at Extra Special Dolls is outstanding.  I asked a few questions and wanted close-up pictures of a doll's eyes and Connie emailed me back within the hour.  Unreal.

These dolls are manufactured in China and not recommended for kids under 3:

Grace is tied into her box with two white satin ribbons.  It was very easy to get her out.  Her red curly hair is secured with a black hair net.  She comes in a beautiful, multi-piece outfit that is standard for all of the Extra Special girl dolls.

When Grace's hair first came out of the hair net, it was flattened down and didn't look too intimidating.  It was a bit longer than I expected, but the curls promised to be fun and bouncy:

The hair, uh, came to life with a bit of finger combing:

You need to see a profile shot to fully appreciate the magnitude of this hair.  Besides, I think Gracie has an amazingly adorable profile:

Here are some full-body shots so that you can see the relative length and volume of the hair.

Let me pause to say that after my experience with My Twinn Kalliope, I vowed to avoid curly-haired dolls of any brand.  Curls always look great, but they can't be brushed, and they can easily turn into a tangled nightmare.  When I first started shopping at Extra Special Dolls, I wanted to order Amanda, the doll with straight red hair (and freckles).  However, Amanda sold out quickly.  I also like Ian, an adorable boy with short hair, but I wasn't as fond of the standard boy outfit.

So, I broke my rule and ordered curly-haired Grace figuring, hey, curly hair can't be that much trouble, right?

I felt a little stuck here.  I mean, this hair was so wild and crazy, it was detracting from the doll's other features.  It was also really hard to tame, which is at odds with the company's mission of making a doll that's easy to manipulate.

I really wanted to brush the hair and see if that made things better.  Maybe it would turn out soft and wavy?  I know, I know--many of you have wisely warned me not to brush curly hair.  I really, really tried to heed your advice because I know you're right...but I couldn't help myself:

Oh, Emily.
I don't have the skills to make these curls behave, so I knew I would have to do something drastic like cut the hair.  I took a few pictures of the wig as it came first.  It's a nicely-made wig, and the color is a gorgeous, deep, natural red.  It just gets a little carried away with the length and the curls.

The wig has many dense rows of hair towards the top of the head, and then the spacing between rows increases at the back of the head:

The top of Grace's head is to the right.
There's a seam in the canvas wig cap on the left side of Gracie's forehead.  This is strange since there's no obvious part in the hair at this location:

There's also a circular cowlick on the top of the head.  The hair in front of this cowlick is short and seems designated as "bangs," although the bangs are very long and don't hang over the doll's forehead, but are swept back over the top of her head.

Here's one last picture of the full wig (this was before I brushed it):

I do think that the curls are great, but I just couldn't handle the length and the style.  I straightened Grace's hair, cut it, and then re-curled it.  She's much easier to manage now, and I think the short style does a better job of showing off her cute face:

Before I show you more of Grace, I want to chat a little bit about Down syndrome.  This syndrome is genetic, meaning that it is caused by an abnormality in the genes (the DNA) of an individual.  DNA is a big molecule that we have in most of our cells.  This molecule's job is to carry the instructions for building proteins.  Proteins do tons of things in our bodies--they determine outward characteristics like the shape of our nose and our eye color.  Proteins are also at work everywhere inside our bodies doing things like turning food into energy or making our muscles move.  DNA provides the instructions or recipes for building all of the proteins we need to live.  Each individual DNA recipe is called a gene.

To keep itself organized, long pieces of DNA are sometimes wound tightly into big chunks within our cells.  The chunks vary in size and can hold as many as 2,000 genes.  These chunks are called chromosomes.  Humans typically have 46 chromosomes that come in pairs.  The pairs are because we get one of each type of chromosome from each of our parents.  So, we have two genes (two different recipes) for each kind of protein.  Here's a picture of the chromosomes in a human male--each of this man's cells will have all of the chromosomes shown here:

These chromosomes are arranged into their pairs and lined up in order of size.  You can count and check that there are 46 total, or 23 pairs.  Do you notice anything funny about the pair in the bottom right hand corner, though?  It doesn't seem to match in size as nicely as the others.  This is because these are the "X" and "Y" sex chromosomes.  The sex chromosomes are completely different from each other (they have different genes on them).  Males get one of each kind, females get two of the "X" type.

So anyway, occasionally there are mistakes and a baby won't start out by getting one of each chromosome from each parent.  One of the chromosome pairs can be missing, or sometimes there will be an extra chromosome.  An extra copy of chromosome #21 produces Down syndrome.  The chromosomes in a person with Down syndrome look something like this:

Also called "trisomy 21," meaning three of chromosome #21.
That extra copy of chromosome 21 causes some confusion during a baby's development.  The body knows how to handle two recipes for each protein, but not always three.  So, the symptoms of Down syndrome are a bit random--they're the result of small mixups in the protein recipes on chromosome 21.

Now, let's look at Gracie's face:

Everyone with Down syndrome is unique, but there are some physical features that tend to show up in varying degrees with this condition.  I found this site beautiful, fun to read, and very helpful in compiling a list of common Down syndrome facial features: 

--A flat profile, especially in the bridge of the nose and forehead
--Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
--Small folds at the inside corners of the eyes
--A short neck
--Small, low-set ears that can curl down at the top
--Tiny white spots on the iris of the eye

Grace definitely has slanted, almond-shaped eyes and a cute little nose.  Her forehead does not seem flat, though.  It's hard to tell if her ears are small, but they look low-set.  She might have a short neck, but the fleece jacket makes it hard to see.  

I just love her profile:

Gracie's face is very nicely painted.  She has detailed, arched eyebrows in an appropriate red color.  Her cheeks are just the right level of rosy, giving her a very realistic glow.   

Her eyes are very dark green.  They seem exactly like the eyes on my Annie from My Twinn.  They do not have a lot of depth.  They also don't have the white flecks that can be seen with Down syndrome.  I imagine that having custom eyes made for a play doll would be cost prohibitive.

Look at the beautiful eyebrows!
The upper and lower lashes are applied and are a very dark burgundy color.  They remind me of my Kidz 'n' Cats Evita's dark red lashes.

It's risky to make a smiling doll with visible teeth, but I think Grace pulls it off.  Her teeth are appropriately sized, in scale with her face, and they are delicately painted--not opaque, refrigerator white.

There's something a little odd at the right edge of Grace's mouth.  I think it's just that the lip paint goes too far past the sculpted area of the lips on this side:

This makes it look like Grace's mouth is turning down a little bit at one edge.  I am not sure if this is intentional or not.  I think it takes some of the sparkle away from her smile.

*Update (1/30/14).  I have had a chance to look at the Extra Special Doll, "Jane."  She has lighter eyes, darker vinyl and straight black hair.  I just want to add that Jane's wig is very soft and smooth--similar to my American Girl Keira's wig.  I am not crazy about the bangs, but I am happy to see that the straight hair wigs are very nice.

Also, Jane's eyes are a gorgeous color and have depth and detail.  

(end of update)

Grace is wearing a gorgeous jacket and dress set.  All of the Extra Special girl dolls are wearing this same outfit, but the site sells some additional clothing basics at great prices.

The jacket is made out of very soft pink fleece and has three full-size, easy-to-use buttons:

Under the jacket is a cotton floral print dress with a shiny belt and a simple flower decoration:

The jacket is very well made with generous seam allowances and tidy stitching.

The dress is wonderful--I love the fabric, the print, the colors and the style.  I especially love that Gracie is wearing socks and pink converse sneakers with this look!

The dress decorations are not as good as the dress itself.  The belt is vinyl and is too thin to keep a nice shape.  The flower decoration is attached with a large metal snap and seems a little bit out of place. I suspect that this decoration is less about fashion and more about contributing to the physical therapy element of the outfit...which is really neat the more I think about it.  

I can imagine families making a whole set of different, fun decorations that could be swapped out with this flower.  It actually provides the foundation for a great mix-and-match feature.

I can't tell what the design in the middle is.
A squirrel?
A laughing dog?

The belt has a nice metal buckle, but I don't really like the fabric.

Here's the dress without any ornamentation:

The dress opens down the back with a large, full-scale white plastic zipper:

The construction of this dress is very impressive, and the large, strong, easy-to-handle zipper is a welcome change from velcro strips.

Grace's shoes are super cute, but I wonder if those laces would be hard for some kids to tie?

After I finished removing and inspecting Grace's wonderful outfit, I was surprised to see that she has a heart surgery scar painted on her chest:

About half of the kids affected by Down syndrome are born with heart defects, and some of these conditions require surgery.  I knew that a heart surgery scar was an optional feature for Extra Special Dolls, but I didn't expect Grace to have one.  I have to confess that this makes me a little squeamish--I don't like thinking about kids undergoing surgery.  However, if this detail helps children feel more comfortable with their scars, then I think it's a wonderful addition.

Grace's body is made entirely out of vinyl and she has elastic-strung joints.  She has a nice body shape and excellent balance.  It's very easy to get this doll to stand on her own.  She is very well-sculpted, with a level of detail that is uncommon in 18" play dolls.

I like her belly.

Grace's body has a few more hallmarks of Down syndrome.  She has a large space in between her first and second toes:

She also has the company's logo on the bottom of her foot:

Not a hallmark of Down syndrome.
She has a single, long crease across the palm of her hand (called a transverse palmar crease) and her pinkie finger looks crooked (which is a Down syndrome trait):

Gracie's right hand is forming the ASL sign for "love."  Because speech development can be slower than cognitive development in children with Down syndrome, sign language is often taught as a way for these kids to express themselves more thoroughly.

Kids with Down syndrome can also have short fingers, although most dolls have short fingers, too, so this is hard to appreciate.  In fact, the American Girl/My Twinn hand has short fingers and a transverse palmar crease:

My Twinn Annie's hand.
Grace is a little bit taller and a little bit thinner than 18" My Twinn Annie.  Remember that Annie has the exact same body as an American Girl doll.  Grace stands on her own much (much!) better than Annie does.

Looking at the two dolls together in profile, it's easier to see Gracie's distinct features.  Her ears are definitely smaller and lower, and her nose and forehead are flatter.  I think Grace's neck also looks shorter and she has a bigger chin--although I am not aware of chin shape being influenced by Down syndrome.  Maybe the flatter profile just makes the chin seem large?  

Because Grace's body is more slender than Annie's stuffed torso, Grace should be able to wear most My Twinn and American Girl clothes.  The American Girl skirt is loose on Gracie, but her little tummy that holds it up well enough.  American Girl and My Twinn shoes do not fit.

Annie can't quite get herself zipped into Gracie's dress, though:

Extra Special Dolls Grace
Grace is taller and larger than Carpatina Erin, but these two have more similar body shapes than Grace and Annie.  They can't share clothes, though:

Grace is most similar in size to my Journey Girl, Dana:

These two can share clothes (not shoes) very nicely, and Gracie looks especially great in Dana's purple tee shirt:

Extra Special Dolls Grace

Here are a few more pictures of sweet Gracie back in her original outfit.  This girl makes me smile:

Extra Special Dolls Grace

Extra Special Dolls Grace

Bottom line?  I really admire individuals who recognize a deficit in the doll market and actually do something about it themselves.  I am greatly impressed by Connie Feda's success at designing and manufacturing a doll that resembles a child with Down syndrome.  Not only do the Extra Special Dolls have many accurately reconstructed physical features of Down syndrome, but the dolls' clothing is specially designed to accommodate the motor function abilities of children with this syndrome.  I also have a huge amount of respect for Karen Scott, the artist behind this project.  She managed to capture the physical hallmarks of Down syndrome while crafting a doll that is well-balanced, nicely proportioned, attractive, and realistic.  I was definitely aware of Grace's atypical features when I first opened her box, but at this point all I see is a charming little girl with a giggly personality and a warm, happy glow.

Grace's outfit is beautifully made with nice fabrics in vibrant colors.  Her dress and jacket are equipped with full-sized, easy-to-use snaps, buttons and zippers.  These fasteners were chosen with Down syndrome in mind, but I think any child would be happy to have these sturdy, accommodating details.  Grace's shoes are extremely cute, but they do not have full-scale laces, so they might not be as easy for kids to handle as the rest of the outfit.  Grace's dress has a snap-on flower decoration that looks a little awkward, but it offers a neat opportunity for making additional accessories for the dress.  I don't like the flimsy, shiny belt that accompanies Grace's outfit.

Gracie herself is not without flaws.  I found her original wigged hair to be unmanageable.  This is not a problem unique to Extra Special Dolls, but an issue with curly wigs in general.  If I were purchasing a doll for a child with Down syndrome, I would certainly not select a doll with long curly hair--I think it would cause a lot of frustration.  The straight-haired wigs at Extra Special Dolls look great and get wonderful reviews.  I have the same complaint about Grace's eyes that I had about My Twinn Annie's eyes.  They are very dark and don't have a lot of sparkle or dimension.  The hazel eyes on some of the Extra Special Dolls look much more lively.  

When I step back and look at Gracie, her little flaws dissolve in the light of what she stands for.  She boldly acknowledges the presence and beauty of an underrepresented minority of children.  Extra Special Dolls are clearly a labor of love, and it's inspiring to see what can be created through this kind of endeavor.  While I don't fault American Girl for making a doll they know will sell, I am struck by the contrast between Grace and Isabelle, two of the newest 18" dolls on the market: Mattel, with all of its resources and influence, simply produced a variation on a doll we have seen many times before.  Connie Feda, starting with nothing but a dream, has made a significant contribution to the diversity and inclusivity of the doll world.

Extra Special Dolls Grace


  1. "First Position" is a great documentary, and I agree that it would have been nice if American Girl took a little more inspiration from those dancers, particularly Michaela DePrince or Miko Fogarty, in creating Isabelle. Grace looks amazing post-haircut, and it's striking how much she looks like Annie. Thanks for sharing this review and the wonderful photos!

    1. Hi, N! I love that documentary. I've seen it twice--with my kids, and none of us are even particularly interested in ballet. It's just an amazing showcase of determination and talent. I think I like Michaela's story the best, but all of the dancing is incredible and all of the people are so neat.

      Thank you for noticing the dolls' resemblance. I picked Grace in part because of her similarities to Annie--I figured it would make a neat comparison. They really could be sisters!

  2. I must say, that while I needed time to get used to Grace's face (I'm not fan of dolls showing teeth), after I get used to it, I think she's uber-cute. Your haircut also made her look better - while I like dolls with red and curly hair, Grace had way to much hair for her little statue. (Still Ian and Midori are my all time fav ESDs)

    1. Oh--I agree! Ian is amazing (especially with hazel eyes) and Midori is so sweet. I actually almost bought her, but caved to the temptation of the red hair. My husband doesn't like dolls with teeth, either, but he warmed to Grace more than he did to some of the others. She's got a special charm, that girl. ;)

    2. Yes, they managed to capture sweetness of children with Down Syndrome. If I was more into American Girl-like dolls, I would get Midori/Ian in heartbeat!

  3. When I first saw Grace's new haircut, I gasped out loud! It's gorgeous! I think that's the style she should have had all along. And how awesome is the idea behind this doll line.

    1. Thank you so much, Nichole! That makes me feel better. I had a few scary moments during the hair cut process, thinking I had ruined my doll and would have to buy a wig--or a new doll! But I like how it came out. Her curls and smile remind me of Shirley Temple. :)

  4. I felt the same way, Nichole! I heard of these dolls, having a in-depth review of one is very helpful :) Your haircut is fantastic, Emily! Thank you for the review,

    1. Thank you, Juliet! I'm glad you like the hair cut. There were things about the original wig that were better, but I couldn't figure out how to tame it or style it! She's a wonderful doll and deserves great hair. :)

  5. I have followed your blog for some time but never have commented until now.
    Thank you for reviewing this doll, I had no idea that something like this existed and I actually got a little teary reading the review.
    I have both a younger brother and younger cousin with down syndrome and my brother had open heart surgery shortly after he was born and he has a very prominent scar on his chest.
    To see that level of detail & understanding taken into consideration with the design of this doll is amazing, as are the other little down syndrome traits.
    I think these details will really make these dolls special to down syndrome children and also with their parents as well.
    I never have had the slightest interest in play dolls until now that is, and will have to let our friends with loved ones with down syndrome see this review, This is so amazing!
    Thank you so much for reviewing her and getting the word out about this special company and doll!!!

    1. It means a lot to read your comment! I am very impressed with the level of thought and detail that went into the construction of these dolls, but hearing from people with Down syndrome or from people like you who have a loved one with Down syndrome is the real test of their success. If Gracie sparks emotion in you, then I think Extra Special Dolls are even more of an achievement than I imagined! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

  6. I have Grace too and I adore her! Her hair was a bit crazy out of the box and I brushed it out too but then I finger curled it into sausage curls. I'm really considering getting an Ian now! I'm really glad to see that someone else found Connie and her company. Great review!

    1. Oh! You have Grace, too? Isn't she lovely? I'm so impressed that you got her hair to behave. I wish I had sent my Gracie to you for some help! Part of me regrets cutting her glorious curls, but they were too much for my feeble hair care skills. I'd love to see a picture of your Grace!
      I am also coveting Ian--especially when the hazel eyes come back in stock. He is such a cutie! I never did mention how above-and-beyond helpful Connie was with my purchasing experience, either. I should go back and add that in. What a neat person she must be!

    2. Grace has such personality and I'm really kind of in love with her eyebrows? I know that sounds weird but they are just done so well! I love Ian's freckles so much, he is just the sweetest thing! Connie is such a nice lady. I really admire her and she always stays so classy. My hair care skills aren't that awesome but my hair cutting skills are even worse! You shouldn't regret cutting her hair because you did a great job and now she's even more special! I would be happy to show you pictures of my Grace! You can see a bunch here

    3. First of all, your ringlets are fantastic! Wow! I should have tried harder to make that long hair work. I love how she looks in ponytails, too. I also have to say, I had no idea you reviewed Grace! I'm so sorry! I try hard to avoid repeats, and always do a search to check, but somehow I missed this. I would have chosen a different doll (Ian!!). ;) Still, there can't be too much publicity for this company, I don't think.

    4. Thank you!! That wig has a lot of potential and your Grace looks amazing with her new hair! Please don't be sorry! I loved seeing what you thought of Grace. The more publicity the better and you're really spreading the word!

  7. Thank you for this review. I have been following the Extra Special Doll development for almost 2 years and it is great to see the final project. She looks to be an amazing doll.

    1. It's really neat that you followed the project in real time, April! I read through the blog-style entries that Connie posted through the years, and it seems to have been a bumpy road. I was impressed by the consistent level of optimism and enthusiasm for the project, though. I am so glad it all worked out!

  8. Grace gets my vote for Girl of the year !!
    Shame on you Mattel-Isabelle is a rehash-you are not even trying !!
    Thank you Emily for reviewing this super cute doll and telling us about this great company.
    A treat as always, Tina

    1. Thank you, Tina! Grace would make a wonderful Girl of the Year. :)

  9. I think these dolls are awesome. (Also the biology lesson hehe.) Your redo of her hairdo worked out very nicely!

    1. LOL! Yep, I had to sneak a bio lesson in there. I love genetics. :D
      I'm glad you like Gracie's hair--thank you for saying that. It might not have been the smartest thing I've ever done, but it worked out fine.

  10. I heard about this line before and it had slipped my mind until your wonderful review. I think it's fantastic that someone took it upon herself to bring this concept to life, larger toy companies should take note. I love curly hair on dolls but I think the haircut you gave her looks fantastic. Thank you for the great review and for bringing these beautiful dolls to the forefront.

    1. Thank you, Starr! Isn't it amazing how one person can make something like this happen? I mean, Grace is a very high quality play doll--not something that was thrown together. I do wonder what the larger toy companies could do with Connie's level of passion and attention to detail!

  11. Hello, I am a big fan of your blog!!

    My cousin has Down Syndrome and though he is a boy, well now technically a man, I absolutely adore anything that helps a child with this genetic disorder feel happy and less conscientious about themselves. If I had a little girl with Down's I would definitely get this doll.

    1. Hi Beth! I was wondering a little bit about how children with Down's and their families would react to these dolls because, as much as I love Grace, she was not really made with me in mind. Hearing from you really reinforces how special these dolls are. I think the sell-out rate on Connie's site reinforces that, too! :D Thank you so much for your comment.

  12. First Position is so good! Grace is beautiful

  13. I think Grace is a beautiful doll representing a lovely, happy, playful, young girl. I love her and prefer her to a lot of regular 18' play dolls as this girl has so much personality. And if children with Down Syndrome recognize themselves in these dolls then that's awesome.
    Great review as usual!

  14. I remember reading an article about these dolls when they were still in development - I hadn't realized that they'd been released, so it's wonderful to see how they turned out!

    Looking at the sales page, it's fantastic that they have so many hair and skin colour options - I admired the Sew-Able dolls for filling a similar gap in the market (bald and amputee dolls in their case), but was always a little disappointed that they only came with fair skin and a couple of hair options (although obviously that those dolls exist at all is a triumph in itself, I don't want downplay that at all!) - but the fact that the Extra Special Doll company offers those extras (and the extra medical gear in their "coming soon" section as well) is just an extra layer of brilliant.

    Anyway, great review with fantastic details! And I love what you did with her hair - really lovely!

  15. I visited the website and saw Jane and now I'm in trouble. These dolls inspire and impress me to an amazing degree. The haircut is shocking - I thought it had been her original hairstyle. It took great skill to give her such an adorable hairdo. I have noticed, lately, the lack of dolls and diversity together. While I have been trying choose which doll I would love to order from Sew-Able dolls (they are mentioned above and are amputee dolls or bald), many of their physical therapy equipment has sold out on me. I have always admired Sew-Able's determination in making their three girls and one boy (with varying outfits) and believe it would be nice if one of the doll magazines just gave them a push on the cover. I feel the same with Extra Special Doll. When I saw Jane, I saw the face of a friend I haven't seen in a long time. We loved American Girls. Mine looked like me. Hers didn't. It was a painful, but inevitable situation. (And I do own Isabelle, no complaints here, but she was my very first blond AG doll also). Now I wish I could go back in time and have her play with Jane, eyeglasses and all. Thank you for featuring this amazing doll. I blab about your website all the time so I know I have brought in a couple new readers. ;-) Thanks, Emily. She's a charmer!

  16. The project is a great one. This doll is full of joy and makes one happy to see her. It would be great if these dolls could become many little girls' best friends and just help make children with Down Syndrome welcome.

  17. Great review as usual. Hit the nail right on the head. I think it's a terrific first try at this market and have to give Connie a lot of credit. The biggest problem, IMO, is the wig on this doll which I agree is a challenge even for adults and those skilled with hair. Your solution is wonderful Maybe a relaxing hot water "perm" would make the doll's hair more manageable.

    Also wish the doll had feet that fit more shoes out there. But again this is a terrific doll that did fit a void as I don't know of any 18 inch DS dolls, and the DS dolls I've seen are not particularly attractive, with one line angering a lot of people as they were so unattractive. Grace is a lovely doll and yet has the features of a DS child. I have no family or close friend association with DS, but this doll is special and pretty enough that I'd like to have one for my collection.

  18. What a joy Grace is - as are her doll brothers and sisters, having had a look at their website. Dolls that look genuinely happy are a rarity but Grace actually looks like she is really smiling!

    I actually find her rather moving; not only because she is charmingly beautiful but also because of the love and the passion behind her origins. Such an effort on the part of everyone involved can only help the education of the general public about Downs Syndrome. To sum up: I think Grace is something of a triumph.

    I am avid reader of your reviews - your eye for detail and your candour never ceases to interest and, frequently, amuse me, and I check in several times a week to see if there's a new entry. Thanks for sharing!


  19. hello emily, I am a long time reader and a 1st time commenter.
    I really love this doll! though, I have a crooked pinkie, and no downs syndrome.
    when you bought out annie, I looked at her review.
    When you had to enter a birthdate for her, that was my birthdate, yes i'm 9 years old. if it's your birthday, happy birthdate!

  20. What a great, truly comprehensive review! You did a terrific job on the re-do of her voluminous hair! Thank you so much (I appreciate your attention to detail; even when reviewing dolls.) I have an occupational therapy degree myself, so I appreciate your keen eye for detail~Karen

  21. Grace is adorable! I think she looks best in half-profile. I think everyone looks best in half-profile!

    I personally don't mind Isabelle's lack of diversity, but that could be because I have blond hair and hazel eyes.

  22. I think that this doll is just fantastic and I am so pleased that you reviewed. The attention to detail is so nice to see.

  23. She's such a cute doll but I do think the heart surgery scar is sort of creepy. I adore the sign language though, my friend's Andrew and Chris are severely autistic so use sign language to communicate;

  24. Completely squealing with delight here! I thought I was done buying dolls, but as a music therapist (and mom of a child with a dysmorphism a and a scar just like the doll's), I have to have one. Thank you so much for this entire post - including the AG discussion.

  25. I always enjoy your detailed doll reviews, so I was extra specially glad to see your review of the Extra Special Dolls. I am one of those who pre-ordered the doll and have followed Connie's efforts to bring the project to fruition. It is heartwarming to see how much joy these dolls have brought to children with Downs Syndrome, and I hope that these dolls will make friends for them among the general population. (It is sobering how many children with Downs are aborted.) Not all of the dolls have the heart surgery scars. The idea was that the purchaser could choose whether to order a doll with or without scar. I have Hannah who has short brown hair and hazel eyes. She is beautiful and has the nicest hair of any doll I own. (I love the haircut that you gave Grace! It's perfect.)

  26. I know no one has posted on this review for a while, but I think it is kind of funny that next year's American Girl of the Year is going to be named Grace! Love the doll, by the way.

  27. I have both Grace, with blue eyes and Ian, with hazel-eyes. I didn't pre-order my two, so my Grace ended up with the blue eyes. Her hair is something else. Maybe I too will someday give her the same hair cut as your. I will share your page with the doll groups on Face Book.

  28. Does anyone know if AG-sized glasses (specifically Our Generation) fit Extra Special Dolls? I'd really like Nikki, and she'd be super adorable in the glasses that come with OG's Book Warm outfit.