An Illuminating, Kid’s-Eye Look at the Great Depression
American Girl: Kit Story Collection
by Valerie Tripp
Original Publication Date: 2000
This Collection Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: American Girl
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It’s 1934: Kit Kittredge’s family has gone from rich to poor overnight since her Dad closed his business because of the Depression. Now Kit’s days are filled with chores — and with worry about whether her family can save their house. Kit must rely on her own determination to help her family face the dark days of the Depression.
This Throwback Thursday, we travel back in time 16 years (by publication date) and 82 years (by setting date) to examine an American Girl offering. Though the collection shown above is out of print, it has been replaced by a three-book box set containing all six of the original stories (minus illustrations), plus an extra story in which the reader is immersed first-hand into a new Kit adventure. (See photo and info below.)
Aside from author Valerie Tripp (through Aunt Millie, her “expert” on Shakespeare) perpetuating the incorrect Shakespearean quote, “Lead on, Macduff” — the correct line is “Lay on, Macduff” — I have no complaints about this American Girl entry. I had recently watched the Kit Kittredge movie and thought it one of the best in the series, and I feel the same way about the Kit Story Collection. The two are vastly different in plot, however. The movie merely uses the characters and a couple of episodes to fashion something entirely new, and while I feel it was successful, I believe I enjoyed the book more. Here, Kit’s story is not just an extended episode; it’s full and believable, and its telling takes over a year. Characters such as her uncle, who makes but a brief appearance in the movie, and her aforementioned aunt (who doesn’t show up in the screen version at all) are well worth the time devoted to them in the book, and add layers to Kit’s life that are absent in the movie.
This was a harsh time in American history, and Tripp does an admirable job of keeping the plot entertaining while staying between the rails, so to speak. Never does it lose sight of the fact that this is a tale of the Depression. The capsulized history lesson that follows the text expands on the book and the era, serving to remind the reader that these events actually occurred. All that’s lacking is a three or four book bibliography suggesting where interested young readers could go to learn more about the time in which Kit lived.
— Jennifer Michelle
4.5 of 5 Hearts. An Illuminating, Kid’s-Eye Look at the Great Depression.
Kit Kittredge is everything you want from a heroine — intelligent, spunky, indomitable. As her story progresses, it’s easy to root for her and share her happiness, as well as her anxieties when hard times threaten. And those truly depressing times are rendered vividly by author Tripp, who never forgets that she is teaching as well as entertaining.
(Though the early versions of Kit’s books are no longer in print, the box set below is readily available. While it regrettably lacks the beautiful interior illustrations of the originals, it adds a bonus book in which the reader travels through time to meet Kit and experience a multi-path, multi-ending adventure with her.)