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American Girl Wiki

Looking Back (now called Inside _______'s World) is the section in the back of Historical Character, Girls of Many Lands, and History Mysteries books that discusses authentic historical ties to the eras of the characters.

The section discusses the historical aspects of the era and helps tie the characters into their era. However, several historical aspects are glossed over or even ignored altogether; the tone is overall a positive, mostly non-controversial image of the historical period being discussed that is appropriate for a young child in the target reading age.

It was later subtitled "A Peek into the Past", and changed dramatically with the BeForever revamp into "Inside _______'s World."

Historical Character Central Series

In the Central Series (prior to the BeForever changes), the Looking Back section talks about the historical setting the characters live in, each tied into the theme of the book. Looking Back sections for each character paralleled each other and were somewhat standardized until the release of Kit Kittredge.

  • The meet book's section is titled "America in Time" and introduces the era in history and events prior to or near the time affecting the early setting.
  • The school book's section is titled "School in Time" and discusses education practices.
  • The holiday book's section is titled "Christmas in Time" and discusses Christmas and sometimes other holiday celebrations.
  • The birthday book's section is titled "Growing Up in Time" and talks about birth, early and middle childhood and growing up, including potential futures for children.
  • The summer book's section is titled "America Outdoors in Time" and discusses summer activities and practices in the outdoors.
  • The winter book's section is titled "Changes in Time" and discusses how an era generally concluded, select future events, and the significance of the era in American history.

The Looking Back section often features images including artwork such as paintings or woodblocks, maps, and photography once it was available, and pictures of authentic items from the era. In Story Collections, only the "Changes For America" section was included.

Character Differences

Kaya's Differences

For Kaya'aton'my, by necessity several sections were changed. As Kaya did not formally go to school, Kaya's Escape! Looking Back section is called "Learning in 1764". Kaya's Hero has "Winter in 1764" as the Nimi'ipuu did not celebrate Christmas during the era. Kaya Shows The Way has "Summer in 1764" because the story more focuses on summer aspects instead of summer vacations, since Kaya did not have formal separate summer vacations like other characters.

Julie's Differences

Julie Albright's sections did not refer to a specific year and instead say "in the 1970s". Happy New Year, Julie! has "Holiday Traditions in the 1970s" because Julie's book focuses more on Chinese New Year than Christmas celebrations. Julie and the Eagles has "Caring For The Earth in the 1970s" since the story focuses more on Julie's environmental efforts than her birthday. Julie's Journey has "Looking Back at America's Bicentennial" as that is the topic in her book.

Rebecca's Differences

Rebecca Rubin's stories follow the same pattern as previous characters, but focus specifically on the lives of Russian Jews and immigrants. Candlelight for Rebecca focuses heavily on Hanukkah and how Jewish people found it difficult to be expected to assimilate into a Christian culture especially during the winter holidays. While Rebecca and the Movies does title the section "Growing Up in 1914", the section focuses more on movies than childhood. Rebecca to the Rescue primarily focuses on Coney Island. "Changes in 1914" focuses more on the labor movement in America rather than the overall changes in America.

Cécile and Marie-Grace's Differences

Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner's stories differ from the standard pattern; as they share their books together, their sections focus on aspects that affected their own individual experiences within their stories. Meet Marie-Grace focuses on New Orleans as seen from the perspective of a newcomer while Meet Cécile focuses on the history of free people of color in New Orleans. Marie-Grace and the Orphans discusses orphanages while Troubles for Cécile focuses on the 1853 yellow fever epidemic. Marie-Grace Makes a Difference discusses health and medicine in the 1850s while Cécile's Gift discusses New Orleans' recovery following the yellow fever epidemic.

Caroline's Differences

Caroline Abbott's books focus the majority of Looking Back sections on the military conflicts of the War of 1812 and its effects on civilians, soldiers, and the United States. Discussion of education, holiday celebrations, and childhood during the War of 1812 are compressed into the Looking Back section included in A Surprise for Caroline.

Short Stories

The Looking Back section in the Historical Short Stories pertains to a specific aspect of the story. For example, Addy's Summer Place talks about Cape Island and Black vacationers in the Reconstruction Era; Kit's Home Run discusses baseball; Molly's Puppy Tale discusses dogs and their involvement in World War II. These add more information to the settings of the Central Series. In the Short Story collections, these were kept in after every story (with new ones for Felicity, Kaya, and Kit's new stories).

Historical Character Mysteries

In the Historical Character Mysteries, the Looking Back section pertains to various aspects in the mystery that may have had an impact on the overall story. While the tone is similar to the Looking Back sections of the Central Series, some of the topics discussed are about the negative and less positive aspects of American history. For example, Lady Margaret's Ghost talks about how, while Publick Times brought entertainment and news to colonists of Williamsburg, it also attracted thieves who would steal and pickpocket valuables and what the consequences were if a thief was caught; The Puzzle of the Paper Daughter discusses how 19th- and 20th-century Chinese immigrants were unfairly treated in America before the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. These provide additional information to the settings of the Central Series.

BeForever Volumes: Inside _______'s World

When BeForever changed the Central Series to being bound into two volumes, the Looking Back section was renamed to "Inside _______'s World" in the volume books, and "About ____'s Time" in the My Journey Books. The section was reduced to about two pages per volume and, like the books, had no illustrations. Instead of specific details relating to specific topics, the section focuses on the overall era but also discusses some of the aspects that were in prior versions. These changes were also carried over to the Historical mysteries.

Abridged Volumes: Inside _______'s World

In the 2019 abridged volumes, the Looking Back text of the BeForever volumes is replicated in the abridged books, but is now again (or, for the first time) interspersed with historical images, such as paintings, photographs, and illustrations. Courtney's first book focuses on the overall era of the 1980s while her second book, Courtney: Friendship Superhero, focuses more heavily on the then-emerging AIDS crisis.

Best Friend Characters

Books for Best Friend Characters have the section focus on a specific situation or aspect of the other character's life. For example, Nellie O'Malley's section discusses the history of family adoption; Ivy Ling's book discusses Chinese Americans through American history; Emily Bennett's discusses the English perspective on World War II.

Girls of Many Lands

In the Girls of Many Lands books, this section is called Then and Now: A Girl's Life. It focuses both on the historical aspects of the time, the changes that came later on, and the location in the then-current era. Though the tone is still optimistic, because these books were targeted towards older children the sections were more likely to give focus to multiple negative aspects of the time period. This sometimes even led to bringing up negative aspects of the present day (such as the role of women in China in Spring Pearl: The Last Flower), which the Historical Character Looking Back sections generally do not do.

History Mysteries

In History Mysteries, the section is titled "A Peek into the Past: Year". It gives a brief history of the setting and mainly focuses on the time period. The section describes the social lifestyles and subjects that related specifically to the book's setting.