American Girl introduced a new historical character, Claudie Wells. Her story, created in collaboration with New York Times bestselling novelist Brit Bennett, author of the half that disappearstakes place during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance and is designed to give young readers a glimpse into an important period in America’s past.
The 18-inch doll has brown eyes and dark, shoulder-length hair styled for the period with curls and a hair bow. American Girl designed a new doll sculpt – including a new face mold – for the launch. Claudie comes dressed in a blue and white plaid dress and knitted cardigan with black Mary Janes, a heart-shaped necklace and a cloche hat. Also included with the doll are a diary and a Baby Ruth candy bar.
The brand collaborated with Harlem’s Fashion Row and New York designer Samantha Black for three special-edition outfits reminiscent of 1920s glamour. Claudie’s line of additional accessories includes a plush version of her dog, Dizzy Dot, a scooter and an elaborate 1920s bakery complete with 60 pieces. American Girl says she researched historical publications to authentically bring Claudie’s world to life.
In her story, 9-year-old Claudie navigates the booming cultural boom in her Harlem neighborhood in 1922. Along the way, she meets talented artists who inspire her to discover her own special talents. Finding her voice, she explores her family history.
The accompanying brochure, Meet Claudia, was written by Brit Bennett, a longtime fan of American Girl. The acclaimed author credits her childhood love of American Girl – specifically the story of historical character Addy Walker, written by Connie Porter – for inspiring her to follow the narrative.
“Claudie Wells’ debut is a true full-cycle moment for American Girl, and it all started with a tweet,” says Jamie Cygielman, general manager of American Girl. “In it, celebrated author Brit Bennett shared her desire to write an American Girl story based on her own experience with the brand.”
“We loved the idea and felt it was the perfect time to celebrate how – after more than 35 years – American Girl has made such a positive impact on so many people’s lives,” continues Cygielman. “The moment is all the more powerful given this incredible resurgence of the nostalgic love we are experiencing from our fans of all ages. We are thrilled to introduce Claudie and her vibrant life in 1920s Harlem to a whole new generation, and we are honored to welcome Ms. Bennett to our ranking of esteemed authors who inspire our readers every day and help us further our commitment to inclusive storytelling.”
This marks Bennett’s first venture into mid-level fiction.
“Before I sat in front of a computer to type, I had already started telling stories every time I played with my dolls,” Bennett shared in a press release. “My sister and I were in love with our American Girl dolls and books, especially Addy. Although the doll itself was beautiful, what delighted me was Addy’s courageous story written by pioneering author Connie Porter, thus creating a new historical character for American Girl was a dream come true.”
“As a girl, I always loved studying the Harlem Renaissance – an outpouring of black art that emerged alongside larger struggles for equal rights,” added Bennett. “I hope readers enjoy exploring this fascinating era through Claudie’s eyes.”
Claudie’s story explores why Harlem became a hotbed of so many talented black artists and, even with the challenges of the time, provided a place of hope and new beginnings.
In addition to Bennett, American Girl brought in an advisory panel of experts to collaborate on Claudie’s creation – from the final product to the initial manuscripts. In conjunction with the release, American Girl donated $100,000 in cash and Claudie dolls and books to the Harlem School of the Arts (HAS). As a renowned cultural center, it encourages today’s youth to become creative thinkers and provides opportunities for advanced levels of training in music, dance, theater and visual arts.
Claudia’s release will be celebrated by a series of events. ONE Why Claudia is important The video series, presented by Bennett, will explore overarching themes throughout the story. American Girl retail stores will offer special Claudie-themed menu items in their cafes, as well as book signings. Claudie’s music video will premiere on the American Girl YouTube channel and YouTube Kids. American Girl’s TikTok and Instagram will release exclusive content from Claudie, including a cooking demo and a room tour.
The Claudie collection is now available on AmericanGirl.com and in all American Girl stores. A special hardcover version Meet Claudia is available for purchase on Amazon and bookstores nationwide. A second book by Claudie is slated to be published in spring 2023.
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