Title: A Surprise for Caroline
Author: Kathleen Ernst
Illustrator: Robert and Lisa Papp
ISBN: 9781593698867
Pages: 85 pages
Publisher/Date: American Girl Publishing, c2012.
Publication Date: Sept. 4, 2012

Didn’t the older girls understand? “That means we can go out on the lake,” Caroline said.
“Why would we want to do that?” Rhonda asked.
“We can go skating!” Caroline explained happily.
“What do you think, Rhonda?” Lydia asked. “Shall we go skating?”
Caroline’s smile slipped away. In the old days, the promise of sunshine and good ice would have made Lydia race Caroline out the front door.
“Not today, I don’t think,” Rhonda said. “I like fixing hair. I don’t want to go outside in this cold anyway.” […]
“We’ll do yours too, if you want.”
Caroline’s shoulders slumped. How could Lydia and Rhonda think that arranging hair was more fun than skating? “No, thank you,” she said. With a sigh, she left the older girls alone and headed back downstairs. (12-13)

Caroline thought that having Lydia and Rhonda staying in her house would be great fun, with constant friends and playmates. But when Rhonda refuses to go skating and Lydia follows her lead, Caroline is left out in the cold. She’s tired of being frozen out by the two of them and being treated like a child when there is only two-year difference in their ages. But sometimes friends have your back when you most desperately need it, when Caroline finds herself on thin ice and turns to them for help.

This book in the new American Girl series focuses on the home front more than the war front, which I’ve always thought made the stories more realistic. While some girls might get up close and personal with the war like Caroline does in earlier (and later) books in the series, most were probably more removed from it. To witness life where the kids play in the snow and ice skate and celebrate Christmas, those stories always seem more real to me, even if they are slightly less “exciting”. We see Caroline struggling again with friendships as her impulsive (and some might say stubborn) nature gets the better of her because she’s so focused on doing what she wants to do when she wants to do it. As always, good lessons for readers are cleverly disguised in an interesting and engaging plot driven tale.