Congratulations, Marjorie! And thanks, everyone, for your encouraging words on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and (of course) my blog entry about Logan Elliot! I know you won’t be surprised when I tell you that Logan’s already got quite the fan base on social media, and has captured the hearts of many.
There’s a first time for everything, they say. First steps, first words, first day of school, the first time you wish upon a star, or see a whale spouting water from its blowhole. It wasn’t my topmost priority, but I added that last item to my bucket list when Dana Point’s annual Festival of Whales rolled around again last week and (drumroll, please) American Girl debuted their first-ever boy doll!
Meet Logan Everett, a drummer from Nashville, Tennessee. He shares the stage with Tenney Grant, an aspiring country singer who rocks a banjo and guitar. Logan’s “play loud” T-shirt helps telegraph his strong personality. Good for Logan, taking his place in the spotlight! A star turn by American Girl, don’t you think? More on that later, plus a book giveaway contest!
I applaud American Girl for reaching beyond the tried-and-true, expanding their 31-year-old brand to include boy dolls and all that implies. And I got to thinking: If they could muster up that kind of courage, so could I! I’d turn doubt on its ear, twist one of my own fears toward the positive. Hey, I’d even announce my plans on social media. You know, for accountability’s sake.
I picked my knees-knocking, stomach-churning fear of drowning in the deep, blue sea. It comes of a near-death experience in my childhood, but hey, I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m willing to face my fears head-on and say, “You aren’t the boss of me!” That’s what I was thinking, anyway, when I booked myself on Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale-watching Safari. Logan would join me, of course. Go big, or go home, am I right?
No surprise, I was the last one to board. After scoping out all the potential danger zones, I eventually settled myself onto a cushy bench inside the catamaran, where I was less likely to be tossed overboard. Thisclose to the life preserver, I might add. Which, by the way, has never been used. But there’s always a first time, am I right?
Now, I’m not a back-row person by nature, so it wasn’t long before I was craning my neck to see what was happening on deck. I wanted to among the first to see a whale’s fluke, and to hear the sea lions bark! So I took some long, deep breaths, grabbed my camera, and inched myself toward the bow of the Manute’a.
Relax, I told myself. And oh hey, isn’t that sea spray refreshing!
I came prepared with ginger drops and Dramamine. I white-knuckled the handrail, more times than I’d like to admit. And when I leaned forward to take these snapshots, I imagined myself tumbling headlong into Davy Jones’ Locker. But! I took the plunge anyway, and wheeee, was it ever worth it!
It’s a courageous thing, too, that American Girl introduced a boy doll in a traditionally girl-oriented market. Tangible proof of their commitment to diversity and inclusiveness. They’ve been stepping in that direction for a while now, creating dolls from different ethnic backgrounds as well as dolls with special challenges. In fact, their 2017 Girl of the Year Doll, Gabriela McBride, is a black girl from Philly who stutters, loves poetry and dance. But Logan Elliot is the face of something entirely new. Another first. He’ll be cherished by children who see themselves reflected in his personality and physical make-up, and he’ll also find a home with kids who are brave enough to stretch their boundaries a bit.
Smart marketing? No question. But let’s not overthink this. American Girl is leading with their hearts—the very definition of courage. And by extension, they’re inviting us to share the rewards. That’s how it works, isn’t it? When we move beyond any self-imposed limitations, we connect with everything beautiful, pure, and true in the world. We come away with bigger dreams. We tell better stories. Oh, and if you’re especially lucky on a given day, you’ll carry home one of Mrs. Capt. Dave’s triple-fudge brownies. So yummy, you’ll wanna give another go.
*BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST:Share with us your thoughts about Logan by midnight on March 16th, and you’ll be automatically entered to win one set of books (TENNEY andTENNEY IN THE KEY OF FRIENDSHIP). American Girl is donating the prize to the winner, who will be announced on St. Patrick’s Day. Luck o’ the Irish to you!
Here’s a sneak-peek of Logan’s first storyline, from TENNEY IN THE KEY OF FRIENDSHIP:
Thanks to her bandmate, a drummer named Logan Everett, Tenney learns the importance of collaboration and compromise. When she’s paired with Logan for a major performance, she faces the challenge of letting others add to her creative voice without sacrificing her sound.
And oh hey! I found two great interviews with the author, Kellen Hertz, here and here.
Meet Gabriela McBride, the 2017 addition to American Girl’s prestigious “Girl of the Year” lineup. The fourth African-American doll in their increasingly diverse line-up, Gabriela joins Melody Ellison, the black “BeForever” doll from Detroit, in making her debut on this blog.
Born into a family of artists in Philadelphia, Gabriela expresses herself through dance and poetry, both of which help her overcome her problems with stuttering. Like most American Girls, she eventually lifts her voice in support of a cause she believes in. Her active support helps save her beloved Community Arts Center.
Just so you know: Gabriela’s story comes to life in the companion book that bears her name. She has her own activity page, and–exciting news, right up her alley–American Girl is partnering with Scholastic on a special project in April to coincide with (and help celebrate) National Poetry Month! You can preview Gabriela’s first novel here; and if you enter the prize giveaway contest at the end of this blog post, you might find yourself among the five lucky winners who receive a free copy of her book!
What more can I tell you about Gabriela that isn’t immediately obvious? She has warm brown eyes and a sweet face, and oh, those signature curls! But best of all, for active girls like me: Gabriela’s built for adventure. I wanted to show her a special place in my community. Thanks to their gracious hospitality, we enjoyed an all-access tour of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Rescue. Rehabilitation. Release. Research. PMMC does all of this and more, in support of marine animals stranded on beaches along the Orange County, California coast.
Most rescued pinnipeds are severely malnourished and dehydrated. Some have respiratory illnesses and other diseases; still others have injuries caused by fishing lines and hooks, human-inflicted wounds, shark bites, and parasites. This little girl was entangled in a gill net, but is well on her way to recovery.
Working hand-in-glove with trained volunteers, PMMC’s staff employ their special brand of magic. Lots of individuals, each contributing his or her unique talents–similar to what Gabriela experienced onstage at her beloved Community Arts Center.
Fun Fact: Dehydrated animals drink “fish milkshakes,” a customized blend of fish, Pedialyte, warm water, vitamins, and medication, fed directly into their’stomachs through flexible tubes. A typical “milkshake” costs anywhere from $4.00 to $5.00, and is oftentimes subsidized by generous donors. Of course, as soon as the animals are hydrated and stable, they are weaned onto whole fish–like the herring beside Gabriela, pictured above.
At PMMC, there’s plenty of space to swim, soak, snooze, and otherwise savor their temporary quarters.
While the average length of stay is three months, treatment plans depend on the nature of of each animal’s illness and injuries.
Direct contact is kept to a minimum, to help keep PMMC’s charges from getting too comfortable in their temporary quarters. Although the workers can get quite attached, their highest priority is the animal’s welfare and eventual release.
After visiting their treatment facility, we wandered through PMMC’s educational exhibits, where we learned more about marine life and the importance of preserving their natural habitats. Because the outdoor pool was occupied, we were able to watch three healthier, longer-term residents play tag and perform impromptu water ballets. (Webcam link, for future reference.)
Here at PMMC, you’ll make lots of new friends–returning locals, and visitors from all over the world! Heather Singer, for instance, who hails from Philadelphia. She came for the sea critters, but couldn’t resist a quick snapshot with Gabriela. Happy smiles, multiplied…
It was a really fun outing, and we plan to visit often. But nothing beat the excitement of watching PMMC’s rehabilitated animals swim out to sea again! Brought by rescuers into the Pacific Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center in October 2016, two healthy sea lions– “Cave Woman” and “Struggles” –made their way back to the ocean in late January. They stole the show, rushing out of their crates, and when they reached the water’s edge…well, just watch it. Your hearts will grow three sizes, I promise you.
Here’s Gabriela again, saying goodbye and good luck to her new friends.
And now for the book giveaway contest! All you have to do is add a comment to this entry, answering one of two questions:
1) What do you like best about the Gabriela Doll? or
2) What impresses you most about the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach, California?
You have until midnight on Valentine’s Day to enter. Good luck!