Title: Meet Caroline
Author: Kathleen Ernst
Illustrator: Robert and Lisa Papp
ISBN: 97815936988259
Pages: 91 pages
Publisher/Date: American Girl Publishing, c2012.
Publication Date: Sept. 4, 2012

“I have delivered the young lady,” Lieutenant Morris shouted, waving his handkerchief again as the longboat pulled away. “As I promised her father I would.”
Caroline glared at the lieutenant. “We didn’t even know that a war had started!” she shouted after him. “What you did is not fair!”
“War?” Mr. Tate stared at the departing longboat. “War, you say?”
“President Madison has declared war on Britain!” she told him. “That British officer took Papa and Oliver prisoner, and seized White Gull!”
Mr. Tate sputtered, “Why, those–I could just…” His hands clenched into fists.
Caroline grabbed his arm. “I have to find Mama, but please–go tell the navy men. Before some other American ship gets captured.” (29-31)

It’s in this manner that Caroline, her family, and the entire town of Sackets Harbor, New York discover that the British colony of Upper Canada and the newly formed United States are at war. Without warning, Caroline’s father and cousin are captured and held prisoner in a jail in Canada. Caroline is sent back, and promises her father that she will help her mother and grandmother in whatever way she can. Her mother assumes control over the family shipyard, now making a naval fleet as opposed to the peaceful sailing ships they were famous for creating. But when the British attack their small port city, Caroline and her family realize that they’ll need to do more in order to ensure their country’s ongoing independence.

A new American Girl has appeared on the scene. It seems like just yesterday that Cecile and Marie Grace were the new girls in town. They seem to be picking the time periods by historical significance, as opposed to a year that ends in 4 like the first ten were based on. (If you don’t believe me, take a look at the front pages where they list all the girls.) Although I understand why war plays a prominent part in about half the stories, I hope the next one emphasises some other aspect of American history. This one starts off an action packed series where young girls can learn about the little known War of 1812. As always, aspects of history are woven into the story, and readers are spoon fed snippets of historical culture in bite-sized, easy to process bits.

We’re not bogged down in the politics, but readers see life through the eyes of an almost ten-year old girl. Readers witness Caroline’s father getting taken for the simple reason of being in the wrong place in the wrong time. The actions and reactions of both sides could make for some excellent discussion possibilities, including comparing how countries declare war and fight battles today. When the city is attacked, Caroline plays a key role off the battle field in helping the volunteers fight off the British. As typical with the American Girl series, Ernst provides details like what the family eats and how they live that bring that era to life, and my favorite part is the separating the fact from fiction in the “Looking Back” section. It’s interesting to note that in 1812 American has only been free from British rule since 1783, and Ernst reminds us by giving Caroline’s grandmother and mother that history of loosing a loved one (Caroline’s grandfather) during the Revolution. Robert and Lisa Papp are the illustrators this time around, and it’s pleasure to see their work included. They mini illustrations add clarity to references of ships and food, and the full-page illustrations show an expressive Caroline feeling a full range of emotions.

A return to the format that I’ve grown up with is much appreciated. Let’s see what other adventures await Caroline.

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