Celebrating Girls and all they can be

Spring 2013

American Girl E-News

In this issue, learn more about Saige Copeland, our newest character who inspires others with her spirit and creativity.

Meet Saige, Girl of the Year 2013

Introducing Saige Copeland, a spirited ten-year-old girl whose passion for the arts inspires action in her school and community. Her stories examine two top interests for girls today: art and animals. Saving the arts in schools is also an issue that girls—and their parents—care deeply about. The amount of time spent on the arts in schools is decreasing, and girls want to do something about that.

Our Content Development and Product Design teams brainstormed to choose a setting for our stories. We were immediately drawn to the picturesque Southwest, where both art and animals play a key role. The region has a rich history and culture in the arts, as well as a strong horse industry. But where, specifically, in the Southwest would we begin Saige's story?

Saige, Girl of the Year 2013When we learned that Albuquerque Public Schools are able to offer art only every other year because of limited funding, we knew we'd found a home for our girl. We imagined a girl who loved spending time on her Grandma Mimi's horse ranch just outside of Albuquerque and painting with Mimi in her art studio overlooking the Sandia Mountains. When Saige complains about not having art at school this year, it's Mimi who urges her to do something about it—to take part in a parade and festival to raise money for the arts.

Saving the arts

To be sure that we were accurately presenting the state of arts in schools, we consulted with experts at Americans for the Arts, the nation's leading nonprofit for advancing the arts in America. We learned that where schools and communities are delivering high-quality learning opportunities through the arts, extraordinary results occur: students get better grades, have more positive attitudes about school, and are more likely to go to college.

We also consulted with the Albuquerque-based Art in the Schools, a nonprofit organization that trains parent and grandparent volunteers to provide art education in classrooms and also offers free after-school art programs. Those programs served as inspiration for Saige's idea of starting after-school art classes.

Saige's series is full of creative, girl-sized ideas for promoting the arts, such as holding bake sales or submitting art to silent auctions to raise money for the arts at school or in the community. Our hope is that through Saige's stories, we teach readers not only how to promote the arts, but also how to tackle any challenging situation by tapping into the enormous power of their own creativity and imagination.

Horse tricks and training

Saige taps into her creativity in another way when she teaches her grandma's horse Picasso to do tricks, such as nodding yes or no, "laughing" in response to certain questions, and even painting with a paintbrush! To be sure the horse-training scenes were described safely and accurately, we sent manuscripts to two animal-training experts.

The author of the Saige series, Jessie Haas, is a lifelong horse owner and enthusiast. The award-winning author drew from many of her own experiences while writing the series. In the first book, for example, Saige learns to train her grandmother's horse Picasso using "clicker training." She rewards Picasso's positive behavior by clicking a small handheld device and giving him a treat. Haas used clicker training with her own young mare, Robin. She says that clicker training allows her to "explain things to Robin, and she can explain things to me. It makes us both feel smart."

Palette and product

While Saige's storyline was being developed, her product line was, too. Our Product Design team tested doll hairstyles with girls and moms, who ultimately chose long auburn hair with soft curls. Saige's hair is often worn in a side rope braid, a gentle nod to her love of all things horses and Western. She also comes with a ring for her finger—a first for our 18-inch dolls.

Our Product Design team based Saige's outfits and other products on a vibrant southwestern color palette, which includes cobalt blue, turquoise, deep red, saffron, and gold. All of the colors were inspired by the natural beauty of the New Mexico landscape, and they reflect Saige's passion for rich colors, too.

Choosing Saige's featured outfit was a lengthy process that involved consumer testing of several options. Ultimately, girls and moms chose an indigo knit dress with a multicolored belt. This casual outfit, along with a pair of tall boots, best fit Saige's artistic interests and personality.

Other fun products to design were Picasso the horse, our first horse with a posable front leg and neck, and a doll-sized hot air balloon. Albuquerque is known for its balloon festival, and at the end of her series, Saige takes a hot-air balloon ride high above the city. The ride is symbolic of her success in getting an after-school arts program "off the ground," too.

Expressing yourself

In addition to the fiction titles in the Saige series, we developed a nonfiction book called Express Yourself, which leads girls through fun art projects that help them learn more about themselves and others. And Saige's stories come to life in an all-new movie, available on DVD in July.

We hope that girls will be motivated by Saige's stories, movie, and products to tap into their own creative talents. Not all girls may be passionate about art, but all girls are passionate about something. Saige's stories challenge girls with this question: How can you follow your passions and use your own unique talents to inspire others?