Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Written Especially for Girls

Artwork copyright 1999 by American Girl Publishing Inc

A Girl’s Guide to Divorce and Stepfamilies

By Nancy Holyoke

American Girl Publishing Inc, Middleton, Wisconsin, 1999.

Reviewed by Laura Harting

            Written for girls between the ages of nine and 13, this book answers questions about divorce and remarriage sent by girls to the author, who was the founding editor of American Girl magazine.  Each page is colorfully illustrated and has a title at the top. The question underneath the title is signed with the girl’s first name or a description, e.g. “Erin” or “Scared in Florida.”

            This book was published in 1999 but the illustrations do not cause the book to look dated, in contrast to other books using photography.  What does date the book, however, is the fact that it is part of the American Girl Library, which was popular in the 1990s and early 2000s.  As a result, this book might be less appealing to girls in late elementary and middle school.

            This book addresses many issues of divorce, including violence, absent parents, managing feelings, choosing sides, parents’ dating, remarriage and stepfamilies, along with the more obvious concerns of two separate homes, the confusion of traveling back and forth, managing the different rules in each house, and celebrating the holidays.

            I like the question and answer format, as well as how this book addresses the difficult issues mentioned above. I also like the tone of the writing, which empowers girls to share their feelings and talk about what they need and what is important to them. Finally, I like the boundaries the author sets around what are considered adult responsibilities, while still addressing how girls can have an impact on adult decisions.

            While this book will be helpful in its entirety, its appeal to the target age group may be enhanced by photocopying certain pages addressing topics especially relevant to one particular girl, and allowing the child to read only what is most important to her in the moment.

Laura Harting, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Paoli, Pennsylvania.


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