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Why Courtney Matters


Nine-year-old Courtney Moore is an expert gamer at the arcade, but when it comes to real life, she’s figuring out the rules as she goes. Set in 1986, Courtney’s story touches on challenges that girls are grappling with today: standing up for what’s right, adjusting to big changes, and staying resilient through tragedy.

Courtney’s story matters because she encourages girls to:

Challenge the status quo

When a school assignment gives Courtney the chance to create her own game, she knows just what it needs to stand out: a female hero. She’s always wished there were more girl characters in the arcade games she plays, and this is her chance to make that change. She creates the character Crystal Starshooter, who’s bold and brave and can handle any situation—qualities she wants for herself.

But the arcade isn’t the only space in need of more female representation. If her mom wins the election for Orange Valley mayor, she’ll become the first woman to ever serve that role. How exciting! But Courtney is shocked when a reporter questions her mom’s ability to be a good mayor and a good mom. Why can’t she be both? Courtney wonders. Courtney stands up for her mom’s ability make Orange Valley a better place, which should be what matters in an election. Courtney worries that her outburst has ruined her mom’s chances of winning. But instead, Mom commends her for speaking up.

“We can’t control how many people vote for me,” Mom said calmly. “Some people may not. But I’m so pleased that you were confident enough to stand up for what you believe in. I’m proud of you.”
“I’m proud of you, too,” Courtney said, and she meant it.

Courtney Changes the Game, page 59


Adapt to change

Though Courtney is used to life with divorced parents, nothing could have prepared her for her dad moving three hundred miles away for a new job. They used to spend every weekend playing video games, bowling, and eating waffles, and she misses him a lot. Now she has to spend weekends with her stepsister Tina, who does not like sharing a room or dealing with Courtney’s guinea pig, Parsley.

It takes a conversation with her stepdad, Mike, to put these changes in perspective for Courtney. Tina is struggling with change in her own way, as she continues to grieve the death of her mom.

“You know, you and Tina have both faced big changes in your families. You’re alike in many ways.” Courtney was surprised. “We are?”
“You both miss someone you love,” he said. He looked at Tina’s bed, where Tina kept a photo of her mom taped to the wall. “And you’re both doing the best you can to adjust. Try to be patient with each other.”

Courtney Changes the Game, page 31

As Courtney begins to understand, everyone adapts to change differently. And you can’t always know what someone is struggling with, even if you share a bunkbed with them.

Be resilient

After spending weeks preparing for the launch of the space shuttle Challenger at school, Courtney is scared and confused after she sees the explosion unfold on live television. Why did it happen? But even her teacher, Mr. Garcia, can’t answer that question. Courtney realizes that bad things could happen to anyone, anywhere, any time. And it scares her.

Readers today are dealing with their own national tragedies—a global pandemic, continued violence against Black Americans, and raging wildfires on the west coast. As Courtney deals with her feelings about the Challenger explosion, readers will work through their own fears about what life will look like tomorrow, next week, and next year. How do kids move forward in a world that seems dangerous and in flux? Ultimately, Courtney learns the importance of courage and boldness, even in times of tragedy.

“I think it’s hard to feel brave after something like this happens,” Dad answered. “Doing something bold always carries a risk.” “Then why do it?” Courtney asked. “If it’s safer not to take any risks, I mean?” Courtney’s dad hesitated. “Safer, yes. But some risks are worth it.”

Courtney Changes the Game, page 90

Courtney never expected 1986 to be full of so many changes and obstacles. But like any great gamer, she’s up for the challenge.

Explore Courtney’s world with Courtney Changes the Game by Kellen Hertz.

©2020 American Girl. All American Girl marks are trademarks of American Girl.



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