The “American Girl” company sends a catalog to my house every so often, and my daughter snatches it up. Each page features a doll that represents a different era in our nation’s history, and you can order accessories to go with them, including books that tell the dolls’ stories. When I first learned that a movie would be made based on one of the dolls in the series, I knew my daughter would want to see it. I was right. But then, I’m always right… Right?
The film stars Abigail Breslin as Kit, a girl who wants to be a reporter. She has her own typewriter and spends her time writing articles, hoping to someday be published in the newspaper. It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t keep her from trying.
The country is reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, and the Kittredge family is not immune. When Kit’s father Jack loses his job at the car dealership and is unable to find another, he decides to leave their Cincinnati home to find work in Chicago. Kit can hardly bear to see him go. Her dearest possession in life is her family, and she’s terrified of losing him.
She and her mother rearrange the furniture in the home and prepare to take in boarders. Kit hates the social stigma this gives her—all the kids at school know her family is struggling and they tease her. She holds her head high and refuses to crumble, finding new compassion for the other children in her situation.
As time passes with no word from Jack, the family does the best it can. The boarders almost become like family as they face the era’s tribulations together, especially with the hysteria that sweeps through the town as a rash of crime breaks out. The townspeople blame the hobos that live on the edge of town, but Kit knows some of the hobos and she can’t believe they would be responsible. She determines to get to the bottom of the story, and she does, but not without putting herself at risk.
There’s just enough danger to cause tension, but nothing really bad happens. We end on an unrealistically joyful note with everything being solved within ten minutes, and on Thanksgiving, no less. Despite the contrived happy ending, you can’t help but feel a little sniffly as justice is served, the family is reunited, and hope springs forth for a new day.
Despite the corny ending definitely aimed at the preteen viewer for which the film was created, I found a lot of worth in this film. I used it as a jumping-off point to talk to my children about the Great Depression. Many important historical elements were depicted, from the despair of the people to the creative ways they found to entertain themselves when they didn’t have money to go out on the town. We saw not only the fear that filled their hearts but the joy in the little things as they learned how to take happiness wherever they could.
If you’re looking for a family film that will appeal to your preteen daughter, this one is well worth your time.
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