American Girl dolls were brand new when I was a kid and there were only three characters – Kirsten, Samantha, and Molly. But over the years they have added a bunch of new characters (and retired some of the older ones). I remember being really excited when they came out with Addy Walker, their first non-white character. Addy was an escaped slave whose stories were set right at the end of the Civil War. I still have the books about her from when they first came out but it’s been decades since I read them, so I’m revisiting this series, starting with Meet Addy: An American Girl by Connie Porter and illustrated by Melodye Rosales.
This story is dark and harrowing, although she isn’t the only American Girl to have her story start in danger and sorrow (Kirsten’s best friend dies of cholera and she gets lost in New York unable to speak English in her first book). This book tells of Addy’s family being separated by their owner when her father and brother are sold away and of Addy and her mother’s terrifying flight to the northern states where they will hopefully find freedom.
The books were aimed originally at girls about 8-10 years old, so everything always turns out well and the knowledge of that makes it less scary throughout. That said, there’s some pretty dark stuff in this book – Addy gets whipped for crying when her father and brother are sold away, she and her mother run into pretty terrifying things on their flight north, and there’s the ever-present sorrow that they don’t know when or even if they will ever see the rest of their family again.
Addy is afraid and sad and scared, but also determined and hopeful. She knows she may never see her father or siblings again, but she doesn’t let herself think that because she knows losing hope will only make things worse. I’m impressed at the complexity of Addy herself, even as much of the rest of the events around her are sort of softened.
I am enjoying this book a lot. It’s interesting and Addy is a fascinating character. I hope that some of the other characters get more fleshed out as the story continues (maybe most of them were two-dimensional at this point because we don’t see them again for most of the series?). I’m enjoying rereading this one after so many years and I’m glad I decided to pick it back up!