American Girl’s newest historical duo, Isabel and Nicki Hoffman, are our first-ever twin characters, and they’re growing up in the 1990s in Seattle, Washington. Isabel is bubbly, extroverted, and very into pop music. Nicki is thoughtful, introverted, and passionate about skateboarding. Throughout their stories, each twin learns more about who she is as an individual, with Nicki beginning to express herself with zines (homemade magazines) and song lyrics, and Isabel focusing her passion for party planning and interior decorating. As Nicki and Isabel thrive individually, they also have to learn how to get along and support one another, culminating in a very twin-tastic response to celebrating the millennium.
Although Isabel and Nicki are historical characters, their interests, struggles, and values are universal. Girls today will find a lot to relate to in their journeys of self-discovery, learning about friendship, and managing sibling relationships. Here are some of the lessons girls will learn from Nicki and Isabel:
Although Isabel and Nicki have their differences, they agree that girl power is important—they just express it differently! For Isabel, girl power is about the messages of the Spice Girls, expressing herself loudly, and standing up for herself. For Nicki, girl power is about learning to use her voice, not being afraid to mess up, and the alternative music she loves. Both twins have girl power, and they show girls that girl power isn’t just one thing.
Just like Nicki and Isabel use girl power differently, their interests, friends, and hobbies are unique, and that’s okay! When Isabel gets kicked out of the Millennium Party dance with her friends and Nicki feels too shy to talk to the “cool skater kids,” they both learn that the most important thing is for them to be true to who they are—no matter what anyone else, including their twin, thinks.
Isabel and Nicki add “conquer a fear” to their Y2K countdown list, and it pushes them to support one another in facing their fears. Whether that’s visiting the top of the Space Needle or trying a skateboard trick in front of new friends, the twins find that fears are easier to face when you have support from those around you.
Is there a better Y2K party than Isabel and Nicki’s? As if!
More adventures to grow on
Meet Isabel and Nicki, the next book in the twins’ series, takes place in December 1999, with the girls creating a list of challenges to complete before midnight on New Year’s Eve. But just before the new millennium arrives, disaster strikes. Will the most momentous night of their lives be a twin win or a sister setback? Read Isabel and Nicki's next adventure to get the answer!
Par-tay like it’s Y2K
Throw a celebration or sleepover that’s turn-of-the-century worthy with these tips and ideas from Let’s Celebrate! The Ultimate Party Guide for Girls:
- Start with the four Ws of party planning: First decide when and where your party will be, and those decisions will help you determine who to invite and what you’ll do at your party.
- Make a list: Keep stress in check by having a party plan. Take time to write out everything you need, such as supplies (cups, plates, silverware, napkins, and decorations), things to make (cake, cookies, or invitations), and things to buy (food, soda, party favors, and supplies for activities or games).
- Make a schedule:
○ Two weeks before the party, make and deliver invitations.
○ Two days before the party, pick up supplies and snacks.
○ The day before the party, make any food that can be made ahead (such as a cake) and clean the house.
○ The day of the party, decorate, finish food prep, and set up everything.
Sweeten your celebration
Recipe featured in Let’s Celebrate! The Ultimate Party Guide for Girls
These goodies look like lollipops, but they’re really yummy cookies.
You will need:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cookie sticks (found at craft stores)
1. Cream together butter, shortening, sugar, and powdered sugar. Then beat in milk, egg, and vanilla extract. Add flour and salt a little at a time.
2. Divide the dough in half and place in two bowls. Add 10 drops of food coloring to the dough in one bowl. Stir until the color is mixed in. Cover both bowls and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Roll 1 tablespoonful of each color dough into a 6-inch rope. Place two ropes (one of each color) side by side so that they touch. Carefully twist the ropes together.
4. Holding one end in place, coil the twisted rope into a spiral. Use a spatula to set the spiral on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Poke a cookie stick into the spiral and place on the cookie sheet.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have a full pan. Ask an adult to bake the cookies in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Sprinkle warm cookies with candy sprinkles. Let cool.
American Girl spoke with real-life twin authors, Julia DeVillers and Jennifer Roy, about how they brought Isabel and Nicki to life. Julia wrote Isabel’s Journal and Jennifer wrote Nicki’s Journal, but the two collaborated throughout the process and developed the overall story together. Keep reading to learn more about Isabel and Nicki and the real twins who wrote their stories.
What is your favorite part of Isabel and Nicki’s story?
Julia: I love Isabel and Nicki’s enthusiasm and joy for doing all the ’90s things. Isabel is passionate about writing with her glittery gel pens, keeping her Tamagotchi well-fed, eating Cheez Balls, reading for Book-It prizes, and planning to celebrate Y2K. The twins create countdown lists: “10 Things to Do Before Y2K.” They “twin-ky” promise to complete their goals before the new millennium, including conquering a fear, performing an act of kindness, and making a memory to last forever.
(I also love Isabel’s cat, Buffy–she’s based on a cat we had when we were Isabel’s age who would climb our curtains and jump off and scare people!)
Jennifer: I enjoyed it when Nicki skateboards and walks her energetic puppy Blossom around her community. She shows us what it was like to live in her community in Seattle when Seattle became the mecca of ’90s music, coffee shops, and technology. When I was young, I had a skateboard that I loved to ride around my neighborhood in Upstate New York. I felt so carefree and I even learned to do some tricks, just like Nicki! (Please don’t ask me to try it now!)
It also was fun to see Nicki make authentic friends who cheer her on.
Are there parts of your twin relationship that are reflected in the twins’ story?
Julia: We both feel very honored to help tell Isabel and Nicki’s twin stories. Like Isabel and Nicki, we think we have “twin-tuition!” Jennifer and I have a lot of spooky “twin” moments where it’s like we’re reading each other’s mind! Being a twin means you have a unique bond. You’ve shared your lives together. Isabel and Nicki also share a room like we did, which means extra bonding time in late-night talk sessions.
Jennifer: Julia and I have so much fun being twins, just like Nicki and Isabel! Nicki is the older twin by minutes, just like I’m the older twin. But Isabel is an inch taller, just like Julia!
Also, Isabel and Nicki find themselves moving away from each other as they explore themselves as individuals, but they always make their way back together for more closeness and fun. This is similar to us. Julia and I have some separate interests and different things going on and we live in different states, but we always make sure to spend time together. (For example, writing this book series!) We are so lucky we got to talk a lot with each other, be creative, and write about American Girl’s first historical twins!
What ’90s moments were significant for you and did those things find their way into the twins’ books?
Julia: Music was a significant part of my ’90s, and I love how Isabel is a Spice Girls superfan. The Spice Girls' themes of girl power and supportive friendships are themes in Isabel and Nicki’s stories as well. Along the way, the girls realize they’re stronger together than they are apart. Fun fact: I got to hang out with one of the Spice Girls—something on both mine and Isabel’s bucket lists!
Jennifer: I was—and still am—a fan of ’90s grunge music, just like Nicki. I also love how Nicki loves No Doubt and Gwen Stefani’s message of girl empowerment. I owned the first No Doubt CD when it came out and played it all the time! Also, I remember how exciting it was to get my own personal computer. And like Nicki, I was scared about the Y2K bug crashing all the computers and causing disaster around the world. (Spoiler: Nothing happened.)
What was it like working with your twin?
Julia: Jennifer and I used to pass our journals back and forth, writing notes to each other, so writing Isabel and Nicki’s stories brings us back to our childhood! We would pass Isabel and Nicki’s manuscripts back and forth and write suggestions on each other’s. There was a lot of laughter along the way!
Jennifer: Even when we disagreed on something or had different ideas, we’d communicate and figure it out, just like Isabel and Nicki learn to do along their journey. I’m a doodler, and I always drew pictures in my journals and our notebooks along with words. I love how Nicki and Isabel’s journals reflect their stories with words and amazing illustrations!
What do you hope readers get out of the story you wrote?
Julia: I hope Isabel’s story helps empower readers to be true to themselves. Isabel has relatable drama with her twin sister and her friends and she has to figure out how to stay together while growing apart. It’s an emotional rollercoaster! Isabel’s journey of self-discovery—including finding new creative outlets, new friends, and new ways to express herself—inspires readers to have the confidence to be their own true, authentic selves.
Jennifer: I hope Nicki’s story makes people who may be struggling to find friends feel less alone. I also would love readers to challenge themselves to face their fears and find their own voices. Everyone has something to say, and whether you write song lyrics, create a zine, or simply speak out when a change is needed, it's important and empowering!
Anything else about the twins you would like to add?
Julia: We're both longtime fans of American Girl—yes, during Isabel and Nicki’s era! It was a privilege to have the opportunity to dig into American Girl’s archives, such as ’90s American Girl magazines and letters from readers. We love thinking about how those readers are grown up now but helped inspire Nicki and Isabel.
Jennifer: We had an amazing time writing for American Girl with our best friend—our twin sister! I think readers who aren’t twins will enjoy getting a peek into the lives of these twin sisters. And twins may find things they relate to and recognize something about themselves in Isabel and Nicki’s stories.
Julia: Also, writing in a diary format really gave us a chance to bring the twins’ voices to life in a unique and personal way. The journal’s design is so much fun and the illustrations are gorgeous.
Jennifer: I am so excited that American Girl has fans of all ages, and I hope they love Isabel and Nicki and their stories as much as we do!
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