If you have a girl between the ages of 4 and 12 in your life, chances are pretty good you've heard of American Girl. The wildly successful franchise has spawned a whole series of high-end dolls, doll clothes, doll furniture and accessories, books, cookbooks ... and, of course, movies. American Girls are enormously popular with both girls and parents seeking a wholesome alternative to the freakishly-thin Barbie doll image or the hooker-in-training look of those wretched Bratz dolls. As an added bonus, they encourage girls to learn a little history, without even realizing it .

The whole thing with American Girl is that each of the dolls comes from a different time period: there's Kristen, an immigrant girl from Sweden; Felicity, an American Revolution girl whose father is a Patriot, while her best friend's father is a Loyalist; Samantha, being raised by her wealthy grandmother in the 1920s, when women's suffrage and class difference were big issues; Molly, a girl whose father, a doctor, is off serving in the Second World War; Addy, who escapes slavery with her mother to search for her father and brother, and so on. Each doll has her own set of books: there's the intro book, the birthday book, the book where so-and-so learns a lesson, the Christmas book, and even a line of mystery books.