Like many girls my age, American Girl’s “The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls” was a very important publication during my youth. It was up there with “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” When my mom left a copy of “The Care and Keeping of You” on my bed, I skimmed over the boring sections (hair care, braces, acne, etc.) to get to the juicy stuff. I needed to learn everything I could about growing boobs, buying bras and getting a period. This puberty Bible gave me a wealth of exciting knowledge about the young woman I was turning into.
Pulling this dusty American Girl classic off of my bookshelf brought back a wave of cringe-worthy nostalgia. I kept the book backward on the shelf, hiding the spine from sight. I couldn’t fathom someone else spotting the title! This fear was at the forefront of my 10-year-old mind, even though my friends probably had their own copies.
I was easily embarrassed and was never willing to ask a mentor my pressing questions about puberty. Saying the word “menstruation” was enough to turn my cheeks bright red. Consulting the Internet was a no go—what if my parents checked the computer history and found a Google search for tampons? They obviously would have killed me!
I am thankful that I had “The Care and Keeping of You” as a resource for answers. The cute little pictures calmed my nerves, reminding me that adolescence was going to be okay. The illustrated girl on the “How to Insert a Tampon” page looked so zen in her demonstration. You see? Periods were going to be fine!
Allison Pohle explains that American Girl updated the book in 2013, splitting it in two to create a younger and older version. “The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls” was intended for girls 10 and up. The illustrations in both renditions became more diverse than the original.
The “older girl” book delves deeper into the emotional changes involved in adolescence and features an anatomically correct diagram of the female anatomy. However, the information on how to use a tampon is removed from the younger version. What if the 8-year-old swimmer gets her period but can’t skip practice? Using a tampon doesn’t seem like forbidden knowledge, but some parents were against its inclusion.
“Guy Stuff: The Body Book for Boys” was published by American Girl in 2017, adding to the company’s puberty literature repertoire. While the publication of “Guy Stuff” isn’t inherently bad, the division between “girl” and “boy” books enforces gender stereotypes. The authors do not use gender-neutral language, nor do they give an alternative for transgender and non-binary children.
None of these books mention (gasp!) sex, which is supposed to make them approachable for younger kids. Would you really want to learn about sex from American Girl anyways?
While “The Care and Keeping of You” isn’t perfect, I’m still thankful for this puberty bible. It taught me more than sex education class ever did, and it let me know that adolescence would probably turn out alright.