Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Review: Kaya - An American Girl

I was initially not very impressed with the kid friendly book on CD collection at the library. Though, for the sake of trying at least one, I rented Kaya: an American Girl. Our 7 year old and I almost immediately became wrapped up in the story. While we didn't have far to go to and from camp, we definitely looked forward to the drive as we'd get more Kaya time.

I'd hardly think that a doll maker would be the source of great historic fiction, but I'd also be wrong. The author found just the right balance between history, adventure and lessons learned.

The character of Kaya is loveable, and like any kid, has plenty to learn. We get to watch her fail, pick herself up, and grow from her mistakes. It's exactly the kind of lessons you want your 7 year old to listen to.

Some of the content is mundane - you get to watch Kaya's sister get courted by a boy, and she longs for her horse when she's separated from her. But much of it is quite serious - she gets abducted, and has to cope with the death of a loved one. Definitely heavy stuff. After each section, the CD goes through some purely historical information relating to Kaya's tribe (which is quite real), and as you can imagine, there isn't a happy ending.

As you might imagine a book by American Girl is going to put Women front and center. I think they did an excellent job of this. Men have their role and are given respect, but this is clearly a story about women. Kaya's grandmother plays a critical role, and she isn't just wise, but also skilled and physically strong. Women have roles that go far beyond cooking and cleaning. Again, these are exactly the kinds of role models I want our 7 year old boy to hear about.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that the book puts topics about adoption and other non-traditional family structures front and center. For a foster parent, I suppose this can go either way. From my perspective, the book does this well and actually serves to give us another set of tools to talk with our foster son about what he may be going through or feeling.

As you can see, I'm really quite impressed by these collection of stories. Then again, how often do you come across something so readable and yet filled with positive messages? I say rent it, I think you'll be hooked in no time.

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