Originally historical character books were published for Pleasant Company by Scholastic, but in approximately 1991, the Central Series (along with many other books) began to be published by Pleasant Company Publications (later known as American Girl Publications). They also worked through Georgetown Publications in Canada for distribution.
- 1 Releases, Availability, Box Sets and Story Collections
- 2 Book Style History
- 3 Story Patterns in the Central Series (1986-2000)
- 4 Variations From Initial Central Series
- 5 List of Central Series Books
- 6 American Girl of Today Central Series
- 7 See Also
- 8 References
Releases, Availability, Box Sets and Story Collections
Central Series books, unlike dolls and their collections, are available widely through various book sellers instead of just available through the company. Historical character dolls are always packaged with the first book in their series and, for some time, could also be purchased with a full set of the Central Series. Books originally came in both hardback and paperback versions; hardback versions came with paper jackets that exactly matched the design of the uncovered books. In approximately 2007--before the release of Julie--all hardback versions were phased out; no characters after Julie, inclusive, have ever had hardback versions of individual books outside of library bindings.
Samantha, Molly, and Kirsten had audio books released on cassette at launch. These were also available for Felicity, Addy, and Josefina as their books were released, but not for any characters after.
Initially, characters were released near the fall with only the first three books in the Central Series and collections relating to those books (outside of Bedtime Collections and sometimes storage). The last three books were released by the spring along with the rest of their collection. This held until Kaya, who had all six of her books released together at once; now it is standard to have all the books released at the character release (or in the case of characters after 2014, both volumes at once).
Six-book box sets included all books from the central series. With characters that had Best Friends released, for a short time it was possible to purchase a seven-book set that included their book as well. Box sets from 2011 to 2014 (prior to BeForever) included an attached fold-out board game on the back and cardstock pieces for game play; six-book sets for Julie, Rebecca, Cécile and Marie-Grace, and Caroline only came in sets with game-play boxes.
Story Collections included all six books in one bound volume, but only included the Looking Back section of the "changes" books, if at all. Some characters with Best Friends would include sneak-peek chapters of their books.
BeForever volumes were initially packaged in three-book sets with the My Journey Books included.
Book Style History
There have been many changes to the American Girl books through the years. The covers of books have had five major changes, with several minor elemental changes during their runs. A book can be fairly dated to its publication run by its traits.
First Style: Parchment (1986-2000)
The first three characters were introduced with matching books styles in 1986 that were carried through 2000. This is the longest availability, lasting for thirteen years from launch until the Mattel purchase and only being modified as needed to add new characters, redone illustrations, and updated elements. They are distinctive for the off-white parchment-paper style boxes around the characters on the front and text on the back.
Standard elements included:
- A specific color was chosen for each girl which was used for things like the year, her silhouette on the back cover, and the selected dingbat style logo on the spine. This color was not exceptionally prominent on the books themselves.
- The year at the bottom of the front cover was split in two, displayed in oval frames (e.g. Samantha's would have "19" in burgundy on the left and "04" in burgundy on the right).
- Each character was listed in chronological order on the back with her color-themed silhouette to the left of a brief character description.
- Book summaries were either on the inner front flap (paperback) or on the back underneath the dust jacket cover with the Pleasant Company logo (hardback). Hardbacks had the same back covers as the paperbacks on the dust jacket.
The complete back cover text read in 1986:
- The books in this collection tell the stories of three American girls who lived long ago:
- Kirsten, a pioneer girl of strength and spirit who settles on the frontier,
- Samantha, a bright Victorian beauty, an orphan raised by her wealthy grandmother,
- Molly, who schemes and dreams on the home front during World War II.
- Kirsten, a pioneer girl of strength and spirit who settles on the frontier,
- You can share their worlds -- the friends they make, the struggles and successes they have in school, the excitement of their Christmas secrets, their birthday celebrations, and their summer adventures. You'll see that some things in their lives are very different from yours. But others--like families, friendships, and feelings--haven't changed at all. These are the important things that American girls will always share. These are the traditions that come alive in the American Girls Collection.
The book number in the series was added under the title and subtitle on the front cover and to the spines, just above the character's dingbat symbol. Molly's first four books (including covers) were rereleased using illustrations by Nick Backes throughout, removing the ones done by Chris Payne and David Gaadt. There are versions of her books that still have the first illustrations, but updated portraits in Nick Backes's style.
Felicity was added to the list on the back of the books with a green silhouette; she was placed first in the listing as she was the earliest chronologically. She was described as Felicity, a spunky, sprightly colonial girl full of energy and independence. The Pleasant Company logo was also added at the center bottom.
Addy was added to the list on the back of books with a burnt orange silhouette, listed chronologically between Kirsten and Samantha. She was described as Addy, a proud, courageous girl determined to be free in the midst of the Civil War.
The longer character list resulted in shortening the bottom paragraph, which now read:
- You can share their worlds--the friends they make, the struggles and successes, their sad times and celebrations, their secrets and adventures. You'll see that some things about growing up have changed, while others--like families, friendships, and feelings--haven't changed at all. These are the important things that American girls will always share. They come alive for you in the American Girls Collection.
Josefina's release resulted in a full overhaul of the character list layout. Each girl had her silhouette replaced with a miniature portrait next to her given description and the images now alternated sides. Josefina, placed between Felicity and Kirsten chronologically, was described as Josefina, an Hispanic girl whose heart and hopes are as big as the New Mexico sky.
The bottom paragraph was shorted again to read:
- Some things about growing up have changed, while others--like families, friendships, and feelings--haven't changed at all. These are the important things that American girls will always share. They come alive for you in the American Girls Collection.
The Pleasant Company logo was reduced, changed from maroon to black, and repositioned to the lower right side.
Addy and Samantha's books were fully redone with new illustrations. Melodye Rosales and Bradford Brown's images for Addy's books were replaced by Dahl Taylor; Nancy Niles's and Luann Roberts's images for Samantha's books were replaced by Dan Andreasen. These new illustrations were integrated into the parchment book styles.
1986-2000 Back Cover Gallery:
In 2021, limited edition bundles of the first six characters for the 35th anniversary included re-releases of this style of book. While Molly's and Addy's books used their newer illustrations from 1989 and 1998 respectively, Samantha's used her first edition illustrations from 1986. The back cover, instead of having groupings of all six the characters, has the book summary on the back and the Pleasant Company logo, similar to the hardback books underneath the book jackets.
Second Style: Faded Background (2000-2004)
Kit's book release in 2000 led to a full revision of the book covers. The style was also used for Kaya's books initially. Cover illustrations used the same themes and compositions as the parchment covers, but with several layout changes. They include:
- Cover illustrations were given more detailed (though faded) backgrounds that filled the entire cover, rather than a small section.
- The title, year, book number, etc. was repositioned from the bottom of the front cover to the top.
- The spine was colorized to match the colors assigned to each girl, rather than just using the color on the dingbat symbol on the spine; this helped emphasize a characters' specific books by the spines.
- The back cover no longer showed a full list of all the characters. This was replaced with a description of the book's plot and a list of the other books in the character's series. The other characters are represented in a small arch of mini-portraits at the bottom, just above a brief description of "The American Girls Collection."
The new version of the back copy:
What was it like to be a girl long ago? The American Girls Collection takes you inside the worlds of girls who lived during exciting times in the past. As you read their stories, you can imagine how different life was back then. But you'll also discover that their feelings, ideas, and dreams are just like yours.
Hallmark sold versions of these books in their stores for a short time. This variation had the back bottom cover state The American Girls Collection from Hallmark and a Hallmark logo was added to the spine.
Third Style: Large Illustration (2004-2014)
All books were changed dramatically with the release of Nellie's Promise. There was no longer a primary set theme to the cover illustrations, though some of them maintained an illustration style similar to the original covers. This is the second longest available version of books, remaining in this style for ten years. Julie's separate books, Rebecca's separate books, Cécile and Marie-Grace's books, Caroline's separate books, and the Best Friends books were only available in this cover style. This was also the last version to have any hardback books available, as they were phased out prior to the launch of Julie; she and no character after her have had books available in hardback versions.
- Characters were given a special font intended to mimic what might have been closest to their style of cursive handwriting, used in their names in each title on the cover and on the spine. As Kaya's culture at the time did not have written language, her font is a serif print font with distressed edges.
- The title is printed over a stripe of the character's unique color towards the top of the cover.
- Books no longer have the book number or extra subtitles on the front cover.
- The spine remained the character's special color, but dingbat symbols at the top have been removed and now only appear inside the book for scene breaks.
- The back cover changed fully. The stripe at the front of the book is echoed on the back as a cropped inner illustration. Below it is a story summary, then an arch of the other books in the series and a blurb about the series itself. In the lower left-hand corner is the AG Inner Star logo with the then used Inner Star blurb promoted on the website and other products. Other characters are not listed externally, but are listed on the first page inside in chronological order by portraits.
- Books either showed a wholly unique illustration or a larger, close up version of an inner illustration with a brighter background. The Meet Books still retained the style of the character's walking introduction in her meet outfit and Holiday Books retained the larger image of the character in her holiday wear from the hips up. The character illustration often had a glossy overlay from the background.
The style was retired with the launch of BeForever, though older character books that have yet to be re-released in styles after this can be found through multiple venues.
Fourth Style: BeForever (2014-2019)
The launch of BeForever resulted in the most dramatic changes to the styles and layouts the Central Series.
Most notably, the six-book series were rebundled into two-volume books--referred to as Classic Series--and the Central Series became no longer available as individual single book volumes. Each volume was given a unique name and contained three of the six books, with no titled separation between the books specifically. Reasons include making the books more palatable to e-book formats and to "age up" the books to the desired eight-to-twelve age range (as most children of those age ranges have or will soon transition into chapter books of considerable length with few to no illustrations).
Books released for characters initially released under BeForever, starting with Maryellen, were initially available in this book style.
- The top stripe contains the American Girl Logo, and below that the BeForever Logo.
- To the right side in a single character color stripe is the character name and the year. Instead of individual styled handwriting, a standard brush-writing style font was used for all names.
- An oval logo contains the unique name of the volume and "A classic featuring ____"
- Volume numbers are listed in the lower right.
- Theme colors for some characters changed dramatically (e.g. Addy's themed color changed from a dark orange to medium blue).
- All internal illustrations were removed.
- Previous dingbats are changed to new styles with some more unique to character theme or era (e.g. Addy's are now buttons reflecting her connections to sewing; Josefina's changes from a Spanish style-burst to a simpler sun; Samantha's faux-floral swirl is now a swirled flourish).
- Cover illustrations are more photo-realistic, and include detailed backgrounds. All new covers were done by Juliana Kolesova.
- Transitional paragraphs and sentences are placed between chapters in some books to tie books together.
- The Looking Back Section has been changed to "Inside ____'s World" and is a two-page summary of the era.
- The spine is in the assigned color. At the top (left, when held with text upright) is the BeForever logo. In the center is the title of the volume, the new dingbat logo, and "A 'Character' Classic 1 (2)". The bottom/right is a red section with the American Girl logo.
- The back text either headlines with "Meet Character's full name" (Vol 1) or "Character's Story Continues..." (Vol 2) and discusses, briefly, the stories contained inside the volume. Below are shown the covers of the other volume and the My Journey Book, with text saying to look for the other books. Below that is the AG promotional text, followed by a unique dividing line appropriate to the era (e.g pearls for Samantha) over data about American Girl, the book and the ISBN and barcode.
Older style books were slowly phased out of print and retired. This resulted in books for Felicity and Molly (until re-release), Kirsten, Marie-Grace and Cecile, and all Best Friend Characters books being no longer available through American Girl directly, though they remained available through the website when searched for some time until removed.
The character's name is in large brush script at the top just below the American Girl logo stripe. The text of "A Classic Featuring Name" is removed, as well as any volume numbers from the front; volume numbers remain on the side. The title of the volume is not isolated in an oval frame and directly printed on the cover image. BeForever is repositioned where the name had been previously, in a small burgundy ribbon in the lower corner with the year and a star logo. Ribbons are no longer in individual colors; designated colors are on the spine.
Furthermore, cover images were resized in various ways for some characters. Some cover images were zoomed in or out, re-centered, or adjusted.
These were not done to Caroline's volumes.
Fifth Style: Abridged Volumes (2019-Present)
In 2019, the central series was majorly revamped again, mostly in order to do away with the BeForever branding, and implementing several major changes in abridged versions. The most significant change is that many chapters--and whole storylines--are removed from several volumes, to condense the stories down. For example, Maryellen: The One and Only no longer contains the last four chapters that were in The One and Only which covered her holiday-style story, and Kaya and Lone Dog and Kaya Shows the Way are both nearly completely removed from Kaya: Smoke on the Wind. Due to this, all books show an "Abridged Edition" notation in the lower left corner of the back cover.
These were only done initially for Kaya, Rebecca, Nanea, Maryellen, Melody, and Julie. Josefina, Addy and Kit's revised books were released in 2020 and Samantha's in 2021 and 2022. Addy's, Kit's, and Josefina's abridged volumes have been shown to be the least affected, retaining all major stories and plotlines while mostly removing side descriptions, short scenes, and extra events. Samantha's first volume has entire events and stories removed and new scenes written and edited in, and changes the order of events from the original series; the second volume removes two chapters and modifies scenes to fit new events in the first volume, but otherwise is similar to Addy, Kaya, and Josefina in retaining all major plots.
Courtney's books are only available in this style and, as they were written to fit the new format, are not considered abridged.
- Much like the previous BeForever volumes, the newer books feature the character's name on the top just below the American Girl logo stripe, this time as a detailed character-specific logo with the year incorporated in a smaller font.
- Character colors have been adjusted again for some characters, as indicated on the spine e.g. Kaya's books are dark blue, instead of the prior red tone.
- The title of the book is on the cover and on the spine in a unique font face to relate back to the character's time period (e.g. Julie has bubble letter text; Josefina has a southwestern flourish to the letters). This font--and the character's color--are used for chapter headings with the addition of new, unique dingbats on either side of the title/chapter name.
- Books have been retitled to include the character's name at the start; some books were completely renamed to integrate the name (e.g. Growing Up With Aloha became Nanea: The Spirit of Aloha.)
- Volume indication is removed from the front cover; the books are numbered on the spine, in a top section with a style to invoke the era.
- Back covers have unique illustrations and contain prior blurbs, edited as needed. These are either contained in a character-appropriate framing (e.g. Nanea's bamboo-style frames) or printed over a full illustration (e.g. Maryellen's).
- Illustrations return for characters and Maryellen, Melody and Nanea received them them for the first time. Julie has several new large photo-realistic illustrations with older illustrations shrunk to vignettes; Kaya, Josefina, Addy, Rebecca and Kit return to their prior illustrations. Several images are photoedited to include BeForever-released outfits, especially concerning new meet outfits (e.g. Addy is shown in her Beforever meet outfit on the pier in Philadelphia rather than her classic meet outfit; Josefina has her skirt and sash edited to match her BeForever style). Not all illustrations from prior volumes are used.
- Family and Friends portraits return, with new ones created for those who did not have them prior.
- The front of the book includes a "snapshot" or two of the character's world, illustrated; some are taken from older books when available.
- Handwritten letters and sections that had been displayed in italics (such as Nanea's letter to Donna) are now displayed in faux-handwriting fonts.
- Author information, dedications, and advisory board information (for characters developed with boards) are present inside the front flap; the back flap contains publication data, illustrator(s), copyright, and image credits.
- The back page of each volume shows all the characters available with new abridged style books, as well as their personal portraits and name logo.
- The "Inside ____'s World" section, while similar to prior editions before BeForever, often includes much of the same text from those volumes with few to no expansions in text. Authentic images and items of the era, paintings--and photos when possible--are integrated throughout. The first page shows the title of the section with the character's portrait inside a colored box.
Story Patterns in the Central Series (1986-2000)
The patterns within the books--both plots and covers--were perpetuated all the way through Kit Kittredge's release. Each parallel book in the individual series had a specific cover style which varied only by the character and era, in part to help display items available in the Historical Collections and show parallels among characters. Plots generally loosely aligned in some way.
- See: Meet Books
Each meet book was titled Meet Name: An American Girl. The book establishes the character, their family and some friends, a major issue or theme for the series, and the setting and historical era. The timeline is set from either late spring or summer to the early fall, so as to neatly connect to the following school book. In each, the character experiences a conflict or personal dramatic issue related to the era's events. These range from small in personal scale (such as Molly's Halloween "war" with her brother) to greatly character significance (such as Addy and her mother's escape to freedom or Kirsten's cross-Atlantic immigration). These books were always packaged with the Historical Character dolls to introduce the character's world along with the doll.
Initial Meet Cover Design: The character was initially viewed sideways to the right, walking in front of a location, with her head turned towards in a three-quarters view.. She wore her meet outfit and at least some of her meet accessories. Updated covers before the BeForever Changes did not change this much, except for Molly McIntire who was shown in her Halloween Hula Costume.
When Kit was released, a set of all seven Historical Characters' meet books was available for a short time in a boxed set.
Each school book was titled Name Learns a Lesson: A School Story. The book takes place in the fall, often within a short span of time after the events of the meet book. The main character starts their formal education (in some cases for the first time, such as Addy) and, if she has not already met or knows her Best Friend in the first book, meets them here--e.g. Kirsten and Singing Bird.
During the course of the book, the character both learns educational lessons and a personal lesson outside of a classroom setting that expands or changes their perspective and helps to lead to personal maturity and growth. Oftentimes, the outside lesson reflects or is influenced by larger scale historical events occurring. The character uses the lesson learned near the end of the book, often to praise or reward (e.g. Addy denouncing Harriet's prejudice and winning the class spelling bee; Josefina understanding that her aunt had new ways and that literacy does not mean forgetting her mother's lessons--and in fact can use them to always remember things she taught them.)
In the American Girl of Today writer's guides, it is explicitly stated that each character was intended to learn two lessons: an educational school lesson and a larger lesson about herself or her world.
Initial School Cover Design: The character is seated facing left (opposite to the direction of the meet book), at her desk, wearing her school outfit and with some of her school accessories. The background consists of items from a school-room setting, according to the historical era.
Each winter holiday book was titled Name's Surprise: A Christmas Story. They were planned to be titled A Surprise for Name: A Christmas Story These books take place around the Christmas or winter holidays as the first seven Historical Characters all celebrated some form of Christmas, though Kirsten's book centers dominantly on St. Lucia Day.
The main character generally wishes for something to occur that is a difficult possibility due to their circumstances; they also have something disappointing happen to them around the holidays that makes them personally sad or worried (Kit learns her family may be evicted from their house and later had a fight with Ruthie about the difficulties of their traditional holiday get together; Kirsten constantly worries her family will not get to go to town to pick up their trunks in time for her to hold St. Lucia Day or have Sari back, and then is caught in a dangerous snowstorm with her father in the task of retrieving them). This is almost always resolved by the end of the book, though not necessarily in the way the character intended at the beginning (e.g. Addy does not purchase the scarf she intended to buy from the second hand store for Momma's gift, but is able to make one with the leftover hem from her gifted Christmas dress from Mrs. Ford; Molly's grandparents are unable to make it for the holidays but she and Jill are able to surprise their family with the box sent from Dad). The main character is given or participates in some sort of surprise during the story, sometimes caused by their own actions to help bring the surprise about.
In the American Girl of Today writer's guide, it is explicitly stated that each character hopes for a material gift and then faces a problem that makes her realize that family and friendship are the best gifts of all.
Initial Holiday Cover Design: The character faces forward in full profile; she is holding something special from her holiday story (often her gifted doll) and wears her holiday outfit. There is a holiday-themed background of some type (such as a tree or decorated hearth).
Each birthday/springtime book was titled Happy Birthday, Name!: A Springtime Story. With all of the books being set in the spring, this resulted in the first seven characters released all having spring birthdays. The earliest birthdays shown were Josefina's on March 19th and the latest being Kirsten's on June 8th, causing all dates fall between the Spring Equinox (or very close to it) and the Summer Solstice. While Addy did not know her exact birthday other than being born in the spring, she ended up picking a significant historical date (April 9th, the formal end of the US Civil War). All characters turn ten years old on their birthday.
A pet or animal is usually featured prominently in the story at some point. The pet may belongs to the character but not always (e.g. Addy whose "pet" actually belonged to her neighbor, M'dear, or Samantha, where Jip belongs to Cornelia Edwards), and is frequently introduced at some point in the story. Several of the birthday celebrations happen close to the end of the story and are anticipated by or planned by the character; the notable exception is Samantha, who has her party at the beginning to allow for later events to happen in another location in New York City.
The character often does something immature, self-centered, or insensitive that troubles another person in their life or themselves and must face the consequences of said behavior. (Notable exceptions being Addy, who is "admonished" by the racist actions of others but does not invoke these through her own actions outside of her innocence and hopeful expectations of fair treatment; and Kirsten who, while not directly admonished for her childish actions, worries that her family will forget her birthday due to the rise in work after birth of Britta and her fretting that her friends no longer have time for her since she isn't actively attending school.) This sometimes results in a lecture, advice, or admonishment from older relatives who show disappointment or concern with the character's behavior and forced self-reflection or reconsideration. Another event later follows that gives the character a chance to demonstrate maturity, growth, and/or a change from behaviors and attitudes shown earlier (in either the book or series); often this is seen by the person they harmed or were harmed by earlier. (e.g. Molly has numerous stereotypes and sensitivities around Emily being English at her arrival and is very unwilling to adjust her expectations of what should be part of a birthday party to include her when Emily discusses her own unique birthday traditions, but self-reflection on her attitude and further knowledge about what Emily has endured during her time in London and how it has been more affected than the US leads to Molly becoming more inclined to include her and respect her struggles).
In the American Girl of Today writer's guide, it is explicitly stated that each character faces a problem that almost ruins their birthday celebrations and, as they work through the problem, learns something about herself and growing up.
Initial Birthday Cover Design: Viewed from a slight angle, the character sits in a chair (often the one from the available Table and Chairs) facing left with something from her birthday collection in her hands or at her feet. She wears her birthday outfit and her pet is shown, and her table, dishes, and party treats can be seen in the background.
Each summer book was titled Name Saves The Day: A Summer Story. These books are set in the summer, generally outside of any formal schooling time for characters who would be enrolled in traditional education. Many of the characters go on some sort of trip or vacation to a new location not seen before in the series. (Notable exceptions are Kit Kittredge, Addy Walker, and Kirsten Larson who, while she does not travel to an-all new location, does travel considerably to a nearby town.)
Characters show fears or worries about their lives, and curiosity in other people or situations. There is often internal conflict the character is dealing with on a personal level (e.g. Josefina's conflict with White Americans arriving in large numbers to New Mexico and trusting the promises of the American Patrick O'Toole; Kristen's desire to prove she can help provide for her family and be brave and helpful by harvesting the honey herself without any assistance).
At some point there is a larger problem to be solved that leads to the character "saving the day" for herself and possibly other characters. The event may be the focus of the book (e.g. Molly's book, where the plot centered around teams against each other in the camp Color War) or an accessory to the central plot of the book (e.g. Addy's, where the active "saving the day" was chasing the church fair thief, but the main theme was Addy resolving some of her interpersonal conflict with Harriet).
In the American Girl of Today writer's guide, it is explicitly stated that each character is faced with a problem or fear and working through it leads her on an adventure that ends with an act of bravery that "saves the day."
Initial Summer Cover Style: An "action" shot, in which the character is dressed in her summer outfit re-enacting some of the "action scene" from the book. (e.g.: Felicity is riding Penny to find Ben before he is captured; Samantha is in the boat holding up a lantern as guide through the waters; Kit is walking on the train rails back home.)
Each winter book was titled Changes for Name: A Winter Story. These books are set in the winter to early spring--roughly about one year after the events of the holiday book and about one and a half years since the events of the meet book.
Some profound change happens with the main character's life--often initially of a negative or depressing tone (i.e.Josefina's aunt states she may possibly leaving the ranch, Kirsten's family cabin burning down due to her bringing a wild raccoon inside, Felicity's conflict with Elizabeth due to the Patriots' overall distrust of and jailing of Loyalist men). This event leads to further maturity and helps to show the character's progress since their first book; often, their maturity or change in perspective is noted by parental figures. All of these books have some sort of positive event for the characters involved, ranging from small in scale (e.g. Kit's news story publication, the birth of Patriot for Felicity) to the major (e.g. Addy's immediate family becoming mostly reunited in freedom, Samantha's aunt and uncle adopting Nellie and her sisters as well as Samantha informally, Molly's father returning home). By the end, the character theme that had been set up in the first book is addressed in some way (e.g. Kirsten feeling like a real American rather than an immigrant, Josefina's feelings of maternal loss and family struggles in the wake of Mama's death, Addy's family separation due to enslavement).
The changes books originally served to wrap up the characters' stories and close out the look into an era, with the Looking Back section covering changes for expanded time afterwards (e.g. Felicity's Looking Back section talking about the success of the American Revolution and the early years of the United States, or Molly's Looking Back section talking about the 1940 and 50s post-war American Boom) While later Historical Character Mysteries and some Short Stories expand the character's story line, the changes book can be seen as the end of the character's main story and personal arc outside of any additional later releases.
In the American Girl of Today writer's guide, it is explicitly stated that each character goes through many changes over the course of the book that are both sad and happy and while initially unhappy by many of the changes, they learn that change--for better or for worse--helps them grow; the strength they gain from the changes helps them solve their main arching story problem (e.g. Kirsten's feelings of being truly "American" and settling fully into her new country as her home; Kit's distress about change and feelings of helplessness during the Depression culminating in her letter in the paper and her personal acceptance of the changes in her life; Felicity accepting the changes that will come with the impending revolution and accepting the differing viewpoints of others while maintaining a hold on her personal outlook).
Initial Winter Cover Style: In parallel design to the 'meet' cover, the character walks sideways facing right but is turned more to face towards and smile at the viewer. She wears her winter coat over another outfit (and often included winter outfit accessories) and waves. Many characters have additional clothing visible; usually one of the additional outfits in the collection (Felicity wears her work gown under her cloak; Addy's school skirt is visible under her coat.)
Variations From Initial Central Series
Starting with Kaya, character books have deviated from the standard six-book formats (whether in titles, cover style, or order and formatting of events), though each occurred for different reasons.
Kaya's stories do not follow the traditional patterns or titles set by the first seven historical characters, as Kaya's Indigenous culture is unique from the dominant American cultural pattern. Her story line is written so that she does have several parallel events, such as a winter festival and a summer "trip" to a new location not seen before in the books; however, she does not have the lifestyle or culture of the prior characters and so for example, does not celebrate Christian holidays or her own birthday. Some titles tried to relate to the pattern of prior books, such as Kaya Shows The Way, and her meet and concluding winter books remained titled the same. She also was given subtitles, each relating to the events of the books. Her birthday is not shown, as her people would not have tracked her specific birth date via a western-style calendar. She is given a summer birthday but is not given a specific birthday celebration. She more accurately "saves the day" in Kaya's Escape!, when she is captured and then returns to her people.
While Kaya's books had different titles, plots, and a unique illustration style, she kept to many of the traits on book covers from 2002-2004.
Julie's series does not follow the set title pattern given by previous characters, same as Kaya before her. The title changes did not clearly confirm that the original pattern was being discarded or due to the varying events present in Julie's series until Rebecca's release. The main stories, however, are loosely equivalent and overall are simply are not titled in the same format. With the exception of the first book, the subtitles of the stories that had been applied were also removed.
Julie's holiday book focuses more on Chinese New Year instead of Christmas, which is only shown briefly at the start of the book; however, her initial holiday collection originally focused on the holiday tea with her father. Her "birthday" book less focuses on her birthday party and personal maturity for her and more on the rise of social environmental concerns in the seventies, including the Looking Back section. Julie does "save the day" in Julie's Journey, but the Looking Back section focuses less on general summer activities outdoors in the era and more on the US Bicentennial celebrations in 1976.
Rebecca's series did not follow the traditional titles and was confirmation that the traditional titles and patterns that had been in place for the first seven characters would most likely no longer be used. Her holiday book focuses on Hanukkah as she is Jewish, and includes conflict with Rebecca being Jewish and wanting to honor her family's traditions while surrounded by the trappings of a Christian-dominant American culture. The main stories still are loosely equivalent to the original series and keep to the same pattern, and like Julie's series, do not have the subtitles with the exception of the first book. She does "save the day" in Rebecca to the Rescue when she rescues her cousins, and has a birthday mention and celebration in Rebecca and the Movies, though the book and its Looking Back section focuses more on the early emerging film industry.
Cécile and Marie-Grace
Cécile and Marie-Grace's series do not follow the traditional titles or styles whatsoever, with the exception of their dual Meet Books. The intertwining series make their books serve as a diptych and a parallel to one another. With two meet books, the same events were shown from each character's perspective. Additionally instead of covering two or so years, the Central Series only covers approximately one year in the two girls' connected lives. This style of books was not repeated with any other characters. There are no birthday books for either character in the series; Marie-Grace's birthday is March 3rd and Cécile's May 28, but their birthday celebrations are not shown in any of their books.
The main stories of Caroline's series loosely follows the pattern seen in previous Historical Characters' series, in terms of seasonal setting. However, they do not align to events in the same order as the others with the exception of the Meet Book. Caroline does not have a proper birthday book whatsoever; her birthday is celebrated at the end of Caroline's Secret Message, her second book, giving her a fall birthday. She also "saves the day" multiple times in her series due to her living in Sackets Harbor, which was heavily affected by the War of 1812 due to its proximity to the then-British colony of Canada; this includes more personal "saving" events in both A Surprise for Caroline and Caroline Takes a Chance.
Maryellen was the first character launched wholly within BeForever, so she was never given a separate six-book format and was released with the two-book "classic" volumes which lacked all illustrations. However, her books can be loosely sectioned off internally into the first stlyle of a six-book format as was seen with earlier characters. This includes a winter holiday with a surprise where family is the best gift, a spring birthday and immature conflict leading to maturity, and a summer trip to a different location where she "saves the day", which is similar to the order presented in books prior to Kaya.
Melody's books were released before the release of her collection; the first book was released in January 2016 and the second July 2016, but the doll (who was not revealed until February) and collection was not released until August.
Unlike Maryellen, Melody's classic-volume books are not as easily sectioned off internally or tied tightly to the original six-book format. While stories can be divided into vaguely defined sections, there is no tightly-knit six-book structure, unlike those connected to many prior characters. In this, her volumes read a lot more like a single book each rather than three books combined into one volume. Her birthday is touched on early at the start of Volume Two; she is born January first, giving her the earliest birthday in the calendar of any Historical Character. Christmas celebrations are not focused on or seen, instead supplanted by New Year's/Watch Night/her birthday at the start of the second volume. She does take a summer trip to a different location, and there is a partial saving of the day.
Felicity (BeForever volumes)
Unlike other rereleased volumes before her, Felicity's BeForever books do not include frequent transitional paragraphs between the previously separated books. One is written between what was the fifth and sixth books to cover the time unseen between late summer 1775 and early winter 1776.
Furthermore, her books did not initially have the same cover design as other BeForever volumes and were given a new style; this was given to subsequent volumes and later retroactively done to older volumes before her. Her name is in large script at the top below the American Girl Stripe, with no text of "A Classic Featuring Felicity" anywhere. The title of the volume is not isolated and is just printed on the cover image with no oval or white background. BeForever is instead in a small burgundy ribbon in the lower along with a star logo and the year (1774). No volume number is listed on the front.
Like Melody before her, Nanea's classic-volume books are not sectioned off internally into the six-book format and each volume is written as a fully flowing story with multiple chapters from start of volume to the end. Her books start in Fall 1941; while this is rather late compared to earlier series which tended to start in either summer or early fall, this was done so that the book directly covers the bombing of Pearl Harbor (in part, from Nanea's direct perspective on the day of the bombing) and the after-effects of the attack on their family, extended family, and Hawaii as a territory. Christmas is only lightly touched on and not a major focus of a plot like characters prior, and the same is done with Nanea's birthday. Because of the aftereffects of the attack and damage in her community, Nanea does not resume going to school again until February 1942 which is covered in her second volume. Nanea's books cover a span of under a year from about November 1941 until approximately late June 1942.
Nanea's books do not have the same complete cover design as other BeForever volumes and more resemble Felicity's. Her name is in large script at the top below the American Girl Stripe, and the title is instead "A Classic Featuring Nanea". On the back her full name is not listed and instead it reads "Meet Nanea..."
Molly (BeForever volumes)
After the release of Molly's volumes, older version covers were updated to match styles with her books, Felicity, and Nanea. There are some transitional paragraphs. Since several of Molly's story components were in illustrations (such as the newspaper clipping and letter to her father of the girls knitting a blanket and winning the contest), in the BeForever volumes the details are typed out in descriptive paragraphs.
Notably, Courtney was released with only her first book, Courtney Changes the Game, available; similar to older collections when only the first three books were released. A second book, Courtney: Friendship Hero, was made available in February 2021.
Courtney was the first character released after the change to abridged books. As her books were written within the new format, the books are not abridged and are to be considered complete as-is (and so do not have the abridged notations). Her first book covers a very short span of time, approximately a month (from early January to early February 1986), quite possibly one of the shortest times covered in a single volume. Like Melody and Nanea, her first volume is a complete story, not written in sections. Courtney: Friendship Superhero, in contrast, covers one of the longest periods in a single volume outside of the combined multi-volume books, with the story going from late May to early December 1986. Her birthday on February 12th is not shown.
Samantha (Abridged Volumes)
Samantha's books are not only abridged, but the first volume is rewritten and partially edited by American Girl's executive editor, Jennifer Hirsch. The arching purpose appears to be to remove most events that do not focus on Samantha's relationships with Nellie O'Malley or her aunt and uncle, Cornelia and Gardner Edwards. The changes also remove several scenes of classism, class disparity, and racism shown in the original books.
The first volume, Samantha: The Gift has only one original chapter of Meet Samantha included; the first five chapters are completely removed, with the last chapter, "A Fine Young Lady," placed in small parts as part of Chapter Seven after multiple other events before it. Samantha Learns a Lesson is also truncated with only selected scenes used, mostly focusing on Nellie's tutoring with Samantha and the speech contest. Samantha's Blue Bicycle and Samantha Saves the Wedding are integrated into the text, with new scenes to flesh out plots and include details that connect these stories (e.g. Samantha sees two young men on bicycles at the start of the book and remembers that Grandmary thinks of them as ridiculous contraptions; she is later seen revising her speech, rather than it being unseen and more spontaneous).
The second volume, Samantha: Lost and Found removes the first two chapters of Happy Birthday, Samantha. (This results in the minor character of Eddie Ryland no longer being present in the series at all.) Other than this, there are only minor changes and scenes removed, most changes done to align to how events are retold in the first volume.
List of Central Series Books
Italicized listings are volume reprints for characters whose first book releases predated the BeForever revamp, with Vol. 1 representing the first three books and Vol. 2 representing the second three books respectively. Listings with a diamond (♦) are the post-BeForever abridged volumes.
- Meet Kaya: An American Girl
- Kaya's Escape: A Survival Story
- Kaya's Hero: A Story of Giving
- Kaya and Lone Dog: A Story of Friendship
- Kaya Shows The Way: A Sister Story
- Changes for Kaya: A Story of Courage
- The Journey Begins (Volume 1)
- Smoke on the Wind (Volume 2)
- Kaya: The Journey Begins (Volume 1) ♦
- Kaya: Smoke on the Wind (Volume 2) ♦
- Meet Felicity: An American Girl
- Felicity Learns a Lesson: A School Story
- Felicity's Surprise: A Christmas Story
- Happy Birthday, Felicity!: A Springtime Story
- Felicity Saves The Day: A Summer Story
- Changes for Felicity: A Winter Story
- Love and Loyalty (Volume 1)
- A Stand for Independence (Volume 2)
- Meet Caroline: An American Girl
- Caroline's Secret Message
- A Surprise for Caroline
- Caroline Takes a Chance
- Caroline's Battle
- Changes for Caroline
- Captain of the Ship (Volume 1)
- Facing the Enemy (Volume 2)
- Meet Josefina: An American Girl
- Josefina Learns a Lesson: A School Story
- Josefina's Surprise: A Christmas Story
- Happy Birthday, Josefina!: A Springtime Story
- Josefina Saves The Day: A Summer Story
- Changes for Josefina: A Winter Story
- Sunlight and Shadows (Volume 1)
- Second Chances (Volume 2)
- Josefina: Sunlight and Shadows (Volume 1) ♦
- Josefina: Second Chances (Volume 2) ♦
Cécile and Marie-Grace
- Meet Marie-Grace: An American Girl
- Meet Cécile: An American Girl
- Marie-Grace and the Orphans
- Troubles for Cécile
- Marie-Grace Makes a Difference
- Cécile's Gift
- Meet Kirsten: An American Girl
- Kirsten Learns a Lesson: A School Story
- Kirsten's Surprise: A Christmas Story
- Happy Birthday, Kirsten!: A Springtime Story
- Kirsten Saves The Day: A Summer Story
- Changes for Kirsten: A Winter Story
- Meet Addy: An American Girl
- Addy Learns a Lesson: A School Story
- Addy's Surprise: A Christmas Story
- Happy Birthday, Addy!: A Springtime Story
- Addy Saves The Day: A Summer Story
- Changes for Addy: A Winter Story
- Finding Freedom (Volume 1)
- A Heart Full of Hope (Volume 2)
- Addy: Finding Freedom (Volume 1) ♦
- Addy: A Heart Full of Hope (Volume 2) ♦
- Meet Samantha: An American Girl
- Samantha Learns a Lesson: A School Story
- Samantha's Surprise: A Christmas Story
- Happy Birthday, Samantha!: A Springtime Story
- Samantha Saves The Day: A Summer Story
- Changes for Samantha: A Winter Story
- Manners and Mischief (Volume 1)
- Lost and Found (Volume 2)
- Samantha: The Gift (Volume 1) ♦
- Samantha: Lost and Found (Volume 2) ♦
- Meet Rebecca: An American Girl
- Rebecca and Ana
- Candlelight for Rebecca
- Rebecca and the Movies
- Rebecca to the Rescue
- Changes for Rebecca
- The Sound of Applause (Volume 1)
- Lights, Camera, Rebecca! (Volume 2)
- Rebecca: The Sound of Applause (Volume 1) ♦
- Rebecca: Lights, Camera, Rebecca! (Volume 2) ♦
- Meet Kit: An American Girl
- Kit Learns a Lesson: A School Story
- Kit's Surprise: A Christmas Story
- Happy Birthday, Kit!: A Springtime Story
- Kit Saves The Day: A Summer Story
- Changes for Kit: A Winter Story
- Read All About It! (Volume 1)
- Turning Things Around (Volume 2)
- Kit: Read All About It! (Volume 1) ♦
- Kit: Turning Things Around (Volume 2) ♦
- Growing Up with Aloha (Volume 1)
- Hula for the Home Front (Volume 2)
- Nanea: The Spirit of Aloha (Volume 1) ♦
- Nanea: Hula for the Home Front (Volume 2) ♦
- Meet Molly: An American Girl
- Molly Learns a Lesson: A School Story
- Molly's Surprise: A Christmas Story
- Happy Birthday, Molly!: A Springtime Story
- Molly Saves The Day: A Summer Story
- Changes for Molly: A Winter Story
- A Winning Spirit (Volume 1)
- Stars, Stripes and Surprises (Volume 2)
- The One and Only (Volume 1)
- Taking Off (Volume 2)
- Maryellen: The One and Only (Volume 1) ♦
- Maryellen: Taking Off (Volume 2) ♦
- No Ordinary Sound (Volume 1)
- Never Stop Singing (Volume 2)
- Melody: No Ordinary Sound (Volume 1) ♦
- Melody: Never Stop Singing (Volume 2) ♦
- Meet Julie: An American Girl
- Julie Tells Her Story
- Happy New Year, Julie!
- Julie and the Eagles
- Julie's Journey
- Changes for Julie
- The Big Break (Volume 1)
- Soaring High (Volume 2)
- Julie: The Big Break (Volume 1) ♦
- Julie Takes a Stand (Volume 2) ♦
American Girl of Today Central Series
In the early years of the American Girl of Today line, dolls came with a blank paperback six-book set that mimicked the Central Series. They came with a decorative stencil and short writing guides by Valerie Tripp that covered tips for writing and included summaries of the books. They were intended to encourage the purchaser to create something akin to a central series of their own for their doll, and for some time slipcovers could be ordered to protect the completed books. These were later reduced to only the first "meet "book and retired by 2000.
- Story Collections, all-in-one volumes of the six Central Series books
- American Girl Teacher's Guides, formal educational guides to be used with the Central Series in schools
- Short Stories, shorter vignette style stories for several Historical Characters
- Historical Character Mysteries, longer Historical Character books with a mystery plot.
- Exceptions are Cécile and Marie Grace's shared series, Nanea's series, and Courtney's series; see details in article.
- Scholastic renewed their partnership in 2016 and now publishes other lines. See article.
- BeForever-released dolls and all dolls released afterwards come with the first volume.
- The exceptions are Molly, who is in her Halloween Hula Costume from one of the illustrations inside; and Kirsten who is still in her meet outfit but shown in a more dynamic pose.
- Exceptions include the holiday books for Kaya, Samantha, Josefina, and Molly, which each show a larger image from inside the book's illustrations.
- This is not done in Melody's or Nanea's volumes, as they are written without divisions, and only once in Felicity's rereleased volumes.
- The exception is Kit, who does not have this added to her books.
- Kit and Felicity are exceptions. Kit is sitting at her desk with her supplies and in her outfit, but her desk is one she has at home. Felicity is sitting in the Windsor Writing Chair, but these are at-home lessons while her formal lessons are at Miss Manderly's home.
- This is semi-referenced in the title A Surprise for Caroline. BeForever introduction video, timestamped to image of plan for A Surprise for Samantha.
- Kirsten is the only character with a complete change in outfit and is wearing the Winter Skirt and Blouse and the matching Knit Woolens.
- These changes are prior to the abridged versions, with the exception of Courtney and Samantha's abridged books; see explanations.
- Because of these significant changes and written scenes, chapter summaries are available on the volume page for Samantha: The Gift where they will not be for other abridged volumes.