flea in san francisco

While we were in California this summer, we popped into American Girl in Los Angeles. If you’ve never heard of this place it’s basically the Global Headquarters of Weird, disguised as a doll shop.

After marvelling at the doll spa where your doll can get a facial (no, really) and the cafe where you can enjoy afternoon tea with your doll, Flea and I chanced upon a range of books published by American Girl.

American Girl, it turns out, publishes a range of books for pre-teen girls on every sort of self-help topic imaginable. Including one about boys. Or, “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Boys: Surviving Crushes, Staying True to Yourself and Other (Love) Stuff” to give it its full title.

Obvs, we bought it.

Last night, we were lying around when Flea challenged me to take one of the quizzes in her book – Are You Ready for Boys?

Questions include posers like, “A friend is meeting you at the mall with her boyfriend, and bringing another boy who’s supposed to be for you. Do you feel sick to your stomach?

How about, “When you think about getting teased or dumped, do you think boys just aren’t worth it?”

And the final zinger: “When your friends are all talking about who likes whom, do you get bored and wonder who sucked out their brains?”

So it turns out, I’m not ready for boys.

That’s okay, the book says, because there are still going to be boys around in a few years when I’m ready for them. And apparently, I shouldn’t get pulled into situations that make me uncomfortable. Phew.

According to the scores on the doors, though, my 10 year old is more ready for boys that I am. Bit of a blow. 

Seriously, though, I can’t recommend the American Girl books enough if you have a primary school daughter. There are a whole range of books and they’re all packed with practical, straight-talking, non-scary advice that doesn’t veer into adult (or even teen) territory, and promotes all the sort of messages I’d be happy sharing with a just 10-year-old.

And with the best will in the world, sometimes kids just don’t hear this advice when it comes from a family member.

Aside from the guide to boys (which has been pored over for HOURS by Flea and all of her girlfriends, who love doing the quizzes and endlessly analysing the various chapters) there are some really great guides to managing friendships, and dealing with problems in peer groups. Let’s face it, it isn’t just 10 year olds that could use a guide to dealing with friends who sometimes say mean things about you, what to do when someone starts a rumour about you, or how to keep a secret (and when not to).

One of my favourite books so far, though, is the guide to feeling good about yourself, and having a positive self-image. Flea’s a child who sometimes struggles with her confidence and this book includes LOADS of really positive ways that she can actively take steps to boost her self-esteem.

Rather than encouraging her to use mantras or THINK herself happy when she feels bad about herself, the book guides girls through the process of setting goals, taking steps towards them, and recognising your own skills and successes. I REALLY like this book.

All I need now is for someone to make a range for 40 year olds. Any volunteers to help write A Slightly Confused Woman’s Guide: Men, Surviving Awkward Dates, Keeping your Foot out of your Mouth and Other (Love) Stuff?