Gabriela: American Girl: Girl of the Year, 2017, Book 1

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
Gabriela: American Girl: Girl of the Year, 2017, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Fun American Girl Doll story about finding your voice.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Exposes kids to spoken word poetry, dance techniques, and techniques for coping wth stuttering.

Positive Messages

Find your own voice. Let kids help when they can. Listen to friends when they tell you how they need help.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gabby is upbeat, helpful, and community-oriented and doesn't give up as she faces the challenges of stuttering. Community members, parents, older teens all set positive examples. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gabriela is linked to the American Girl doll brand and based on the 2017 Girl of the Year doll. While there's no mention of the doll in the story, the American Girl brand is prevalent on the book cover, and the American Girl website is listed for readers to find more doll-based adventures. African-American middle schooler Gabby, like many kids, stutters, but she finds her voice among friends and family at her mom's dance studio and community arts center. The story also deals with friendship and social media use. The second book in the series, Gabriela Speaks Out, was published on April 25, 2017.

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What's the story?

In GABRIELA, main character Gabby McBride has a favorite place -- her mother's dance studio, Liberty Arts -- where she and other people in their community share their love of the arts through dance, art, and poetry. In that safe place she conquers her stutter and joins her cousin's spoken word poetry group. When Gabby and her friends want to add something special to the annual showcase, they make a big mistake, and now the community center may be shut down! Can Gabby and her friends find their voices to save a place they all love? 

Is it any good?

Funny and heartfelt, this book will instantly make readers love Liberty Arts as much as the main character does. Author Teresa A. Harris' snappy dialogue, slice-of-life scenes, and upbeat messaging make Gabriela easy to get into without coming across as too saccharine or preachy for average kids. The book deals with a common issue for kids -- stuttering -- and Gabby explores several techniques for coping with it and learns to speak up for herself when others try to "help" her by drowning her out.

Parents will be pleased that Gabriela doesn't dwell on the American Girl brand, even though it's impossible to miss with the cover design and additional marketing materials, such as the American Girl website where readers can find more doll-based adventures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Gabriela merchandise is marketed to kids. Would you be interested in this book if it weren't tied to the American Girl Doll brand? Did you want to buy the doll after reading the story? 

  • Families can also talk about Gabriela's coping techniques for her stutter. Do you have techniques for overcoming issues that affect you, such as anger, shyness, and figuring out the meanings of new words? Do you have a trusted friend or adult who can help you develop those techniques?

  • Gabriela's best friend speaks for her when her stuttering begins. How is that harmful to Gabriela? How is she able to finally speak up about it? Have you ever had to speak up when a friend was hurting you?

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