American Girl has introduced a new historical character, Claudie Wells. Her story, created in collaboration with New York Times best-selling novelist Brit Bennett, author of the Vanishing Half, takes place during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance and is designed to give young readers a glimpse into an important period in America's past.
The 18-inch doll has brown eyes and dark shoulder-length hair styled to the period with ringlets and a hair bow. American Girl designed a brand-new doll sculpt — including an all-new face mold — for the release. Claudie comes dressed in a woven blue-and-white plaid dress and knit cardigan with black Mary Janes, a heart-shaped necklace and a cloche hat. Also included with the doll are a journal and a Baby Ruth candy bar.
The brand collaborated with Harlem's Fashion Row and New York-based designer Samantha Black for three special edition outfits reminiscent of 1920s glamour. Claudie's additional accessory line includes a plush version of her dog, Dizzy Dot, a kick scooter and an elaborate ’20s bakery complete with 60 pieces. American Girl says it researched historical publications to authentically bring Claudie's world to life.
In her story, 9-year-old Claudie navigates the booming cultural growth in her neighborhood of Harlem in 1922. Along the way, she meets talented artists that inspire her to discover her own special talents. As she finds her voice, she explores her family's history.
The accompanying paperback, Meet Claudie, was written by lifelong American Girl fan Brit Bennett. The acclaimed author attributes her childhood love for American Girl — specifically for historical character Addy Walker's story written by Connie Porter — for inspiring her to pursue storytelling.
"The debut of Claudie Wells is a true full-circle moment for American Girl, and it all started with a tweet," says Jamie Cygielman, general manager of American Girl. "In it, celebrated author Brit Bennett shared her desire to write an American Girl story based on her own experience with the brand."
"We loved the idea and felt it was the perfect time to celebrate how — after more than 35 years — American Girl has made such a positive impact on the lives of so many," Cygielman continues. "The timing is even more powerful given this incredible resurgence of nostalgic love we're experiencing from our fans of all ages. We're thrilled to introduce Claudie and her vibrant life in 1920s Harlem to a whole new generation, and we're honored to welcome Ms. Bennett to our rank of esteemed authors who inspire our readers every day and help us further our commitment to inclusive storytelling."
This marks Bennett's first venture into middle-grade fiction.
"Before I ever sat in front of a computer to type, I had already started telling stories each time I played with my dolls," Bennett shared in a press release. "My sister and I were in love with our American Girl dolls and books, especially Addy. While the doll itself was beautiful, what enchanted me was Addy's courageous story written by the trailblazing author Connie Porter, so creating a new historical character for American Girl has been a dream come true."
"As a girl, I always loved studying the Harlem Renaissance — an outpouring of Black artistry that emerged alongside larger struggles for equal rights," Bennett added. "I hope readers will enjoy exploring this fascinating era through Claudie's eyes."
Claudie's story explores why Harlem became a hotbed of so many talented Black artists and, even with the challenges of the time, provided a place of hope and new beginnings.
In addition to Bennett, American Girl brought on an expert advisory panel to collaborate on the creation of Claudie — from the final product to initial manuscripts. In conjunction with the release, American Girl has donated $100,000 in cash and Claudie dolls and books to the Harlem School of the Arts (HAS). As a renowned cultural center, it encourages today's youth to become creative thinkers and provides opportunities for advanced levels of training in music, dance, theater and visual arts.
Claudie's launch will be celebrated by a series of events. A Why Claudie Matters video series, hosted by Bennett, will explore overarching themes throughout the story. American Girl retail stores will offer special Claudie-themed menu items at their cafes, in addition to book signings. Claudie's music video will debut on the American Girl YouTube channel and YouTube Kids. American Girl's TikTok and Instagram will release exclusive Claudie content, including a cooking demo and bedroom tour.
The Claudie collection is available now on AmericanGirl.com and at all U.S. American Girl retail locations. A special hardcover version of Meet Claudie is available for purchase at Amazon and bookstores nationwide. A second Claudie book is anticipated to be published in spring 2023.
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