The Best Doll, My 8-Year-Old’s Journey

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Is this the best doll?

American Girl® has our name. I don’t know how they got it, but they did. Somehow, they know we have a young girl in our home who lives to pore endlessly through their catalog. It has become the standard by which all dolls are measured.  When that catalog arrives, I know Christmas is imminent.

Wren is eight. Honestly, she has shown no interest in American Girl® dolls until now, and we were frankly, relieved. Right now, they are featuring a doll named, Isabelle, who, without accessories or ear-piercings, can be bought for a cool $120.00 USD.  For a doll! Wren saw the look on my face when she showed me “the best doll” she wished for from the catalog. Don’t get me wrong. I would have loved a doll like this when I was a girl. I coveted my best friend’s Sasha dolls which are now “vintage” and the domain of the avid collector. I don’t know what they cost when I was young, but I knew better than to ever ask my single-parent mother for one.

I asked Wren, “How much does that doll you want cost?”

She’s a good reader now. She saw the three-figure price tag and scowled over the page. She said, “Oh!” and walked away.

A few minutes later, she was back. “Mommy, this one’s prettier and she’s $39.95. I could save up my money. She had found a Toys R Us® catalog, and was looking at their Journey Girl series.

All afternoon, she pored over the two catalogs, comparing dolls, clothing, accessories and prices. Christmas toy catalogs are the best passive reading and math exercise ever, so I left her to it.
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When the afternoon mail came in, she ran to interrupt my work, “Mommy, look! This catalog has dolls just like American Girl® for $16.95. I have that much!” And so my little bargain hunter made up her mind. And, a week or so later, her chosen doll arrived.

Wren was very happy with her purchase. Except, I noticed that after a week she stopped playing with her as much.  I knew right away what the problem was. Her hair, so pretty out of the package, had become a rat’s nest. I know, having been a little girl myself, hair is important. We were able to restore her hair to better condition by rubbing it with a slightly moistened dryer sheet and brushing it out with a doll’s hairbrush, but the sad truth is, this will be an ongoing battle. The hair is made of very cheap fibers.

The $16.95 doll's hair after a week of play

The $16.95 doll’s hair after a week of play

$16.95 doll’s hair, front shot, after a week of play

$16.95 doll's hair after we fixed it with a dryer sheet and some brushing

$16.95 doll’s hair after we fixed it with a dryer sheet and some brushing

The Big Difference

I have a friend whose daughters have American Girl® dolls. She brought two over for us to look at.  Certainly, there are differences in the features, such as the open mouth and the freckles. Wren says she prefers her doll’s friendly face. But, the big difference is the hair. Our friend told us that these American Girl® dolls are several years old and their hair has been washed and styled numerous times. It still looks new.

The American Girl dolls are left and middle. Wren's $16.95 doll is on the right

The American Girl dolls are left and middle. Wren’s $16.95 doll is on the right

Wren with an American Girl doll

Wren with an American Girl doll



The Hair’s The Thing

The biggest difference between the $120.00 doll and the $16.95 doll is the hair. It can take what young girls can dish out. Wren still likes her doll’s friendly face better, and thinks the Journey Girl dolls are prettier, at least from what she’s seen in the catalog.  In fact, she’s asked Santa for one. I’m interested to know if the Journey Girls hair holds up too, but we can’t rush Santa. If anyone has feedback about the Journey Girl dolls, I’d love to hear it.

Lauren's Hope Medical ID

If it had been up to me from the beginning, I would have instinctively bought the mid-price Journey Girls doll, or, do what we did several days later and find a good quality doll at a Goodwill, who just needed a little TLC to make her presentable. Of note, there is a tag on this doll specifically saying not to get her hair wet, so we did not use the dryer sheet treatment on her. Her hair was simply brushed with a doll’s brush. It came back to an amazing luster.


A Goodwill find Madame Alexander doll before we fixed her Wren


The $5.00 Madame Alexander doll from Goodwill before we found her some wardrobe and fixed her hair

Our Goodwill find dressed and coifed

Our Goodwill find dressed and coiffed


The Madame Alexander doll we got at Goodwill has the most beautiful hair

The Madame Alexander doll we got at Goodwill has the most beautiful hair

The Real Treasure

The real treasure in all of this was that our daughter got a many faceted lesson about how to shop for, care for, and recycle a doll. She learned that if you pick dolls that are all the same size, they can share clothes, and that all dolls are special no matter what their hair looks like.

My personal favorite of this bunch is the Goodwill doll. She’s got real class. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great doll. In fact, if we had just spent the money, it would have taken all the fun out of it! I hope what stays with Wren is the time she spent, wishing, learning and growing, and realizing that in the end it’s not about the doll, it’s about the journey.

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Ahnna Hawkesworth

Ahnna Hawkesworth is passionate about getting as far away from the corporate food monster as possible. She practices, and teaches the art of cooking from scratch. Besides devotedly caring for her home and family, Ahnna writes. Her work can be found on,, as well as here on The Abundant Home.

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