Kira Bailey, American Girl’s Girl of the Year 2021, Tackles Australian Wildfires and LGBTQ Relationships

4 Feb

Greetings readers!

American Girl has released their newest Girl of the Year 2021, Kira Bailey. When Kira gets the chance to care for animals at her aunts’ wildlife park in Australia, it’s a dream come true—and the koalas, wombats, and kangaroos need all the help they can get!

Below are the books’ summaries:

Kira Down Under: Book 1: Kira Bailey is living her dream: Cuddling koalas and bottle-feeding baby kangaroos. Kira and her mom are spending the summer at a wildlife sanctuary in Australia helping her aunt Mamie, a veterinarian, care for the animals. When Kira falls in love with an orphaned koala joey, her joy is complete—until a health emergency pulls Aunt Mamie away. Suddenly Kira can’t seem to do anything right. She’s put the wombats and her beloved koala joey in danger, and now her new friend Alexis won’t talk to her. Can Kira find a way to catch a roving predator—along with a few wayward wombats—and earn back everyone’s trust?

Kira’s Animal Rescue: Book 2: In this second book of her series, Kira teams up with a student at the animal sanctuary to track down the paradise parrot—a bird thought to be extinct—and prove that it still exists. While they’re trying to observe the elusive bird, bushfires threaten to wipe out the sanctuary and the parrot’s habitat. There’s no choice but to evacuate all the animals, which is a huge task even without trying to track down a missing baby wallaby. As the bushfires rage out of control, Kira makes a disturbing discovery. Should she keep her mouth shut—or tell a painful truth? 

Here’s a peek at her collection:


Kira Bailey tackles more important events than any Girl of the Year characters have in the last decade. She’s truly a sign of the times, and that’s what many fans expect of American Girl. While many could argue that American Girl glosses over deeper truths, many do recognize American Girl’s ability to tackle hard subjects head-on in teachable and family-friendly stories directed at children, as well as being from a young woman’s perspective.

Kira Bailey’s stories first tackle the Australian wildfires, something very real and important, especially before Covid-19 struck. Wildfires also relate to many Californian residents who recently experienced the same issue.

Tack on a world destination theme, along with cute furry animals, and you have the makings of both an exciting, cute, and an important story.

I am also connected with Bailey because, just like her, I lost my father at about 9 years old. Just like her, I’m still afraid of going to hospitals. Those moments resonated with me, and at times, I felt like reaching inside the story and giving a fictional character a hug.

Kira Bailey’s stories go a step further by introducing two married aunts named Lynette and Maime. American Girl has often come under fire for racism and homophobia. Now, at least a bit of that can be tempered, since they are at least attempting to include diverse families. While it isn’t the center of the story, just having that representation means a lot to people.

Of course, just like when American Girl attempted to align with Girls, Inc. in 2005 and published a story about a Black American Girl adopted by two White American dads in 2015, the largely conservative fanbase was in an uproar. The reviews on Amazon are so brutal, I just don’t even want to link it here.

The conservative fanbase has actually been in an uproar since February 2020, when American Girl released their “Commitment to Racial Equality” on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In that commitment, they outlined their plans to include more Black characters with authentic storylines in their brand. They stated they planned on releasing a new contemporary line, due to be released Fall 2021, to align with that initiative. Though I have reservations about that initiative, as most of American Girl’s contemporary lines have not done well and are mostly too expensive for most Black families at this time, the backlash was instead directed more towards the idea that American Girl even wants to include Black stories. One responder on Facebook stated, “I don’t want American Girl to change.” Many of them threatened to pull their support and boycott the brand, stating that American Girl was aligning themselves with “terrorist groups” (Black Lives Matter, to be exact). As if American Girl has never had Black characters before. As if American Girl topics haven’t already aligned with the values of Black Lives Matter. The idea of police brutality and racism aren’t new. It’s also not as if Black characters will take over, and even if more were made, aren’t there plenty of white characters to choose from? It’s obvious the real fear is of the hard stories the fan base would have to face, the harsh realities a girl of color would force them to face.

I don’t understand how anyone who becomes a fan of American Girl expects them to skate around relevant issues. It has always been a brand that taught children how to handle and address real things going on in the world. Just because parents want to protect their children from the world doesn’t mean they will be sheltered forever. They will meet different people in the real world, people who will eventually live in the same neighborhoods and work with them. Shielding them from the subjects isn’t helpful. American Girl is a good wholesome brand that approaches these difficult subjects in a gentle way.

In Kira Bailey’s case, the mention of the couple was not done in a forceful way, like many of these doll companies have tried just to pander to any minority group they can for money. In fact, Kira isn’t even advertised as a character that’s addressing LGBTQ+ subjects. Why? Because it is normalized in the story, just like all the other parents and couples in the American Girl franchise. The lead characters don’t have crushes or date at all, which I am thankful for. Why should girls think they are only valuable if they have a partner, queer or not? Why should every story centering on girls feature romance?

Still, real people have diverse families, and American Girl makes stories that teach children about the worlds of others outside of our own. That’s the gem of the stories. The Girl of the Year stories reveal what modern girls face, and like the Historical Collection, will all become a part of history one day. Why shouldn’t a Girl of the Year character address gay rights when that is very relevant to what’s happening today, whether controversial or not?

On Amazon, parents have called this “sexualizing” or introducing “sexual topics” to children. To be honest, wouldn’t that mean all of the couples in the American Girls’ stories introduce the topic of relationships and sexuality? I mean, think about the number of pregnant mothers prevalent throughout American Girls’ stories. Wouldn’t that count as introducing children to “sexuality”, “pregnancy”, and hardships of “childbirth”?

From what I’ve read in these reviews, parents don’t want to have to explain in detail what diverse families are and what they look like in others’ homes. They barely want to explain what racism is to their children. Basically, they want their children to remain ignorant. I would argue, why buy educational products at all? Stick to fantasy.

Many of the parents think American Girl should have “trigger warnings” because they’re not ready to have certain conversations with their children and don’t want a book to teach it to their children before they do. Unlike with the Black characters, where the “trigger” is their skin itself, and where the stories have clearly been outlined as tackling “racial” topics, Kira’s stories kind of slip it in. Because the couple is not obviously visible, more conservative parents couldn’t avoid it like they usually do the characters of color.

For the past two years, I’ve had new respect for Girl of the Year. Staring with Joss, I’m starting to see that American Girl isn’t afraid to make Girl of the Year just as meaningful as they’ve made their Historical Collection. I used to see that part of the brand as the “light, fluffy, and shallower” cousin. To a certain extent, it’s still more saturated than what you would find in the Historical storytelling. However, it’s refreshing to know that American Girl isn’t afraid to tackle timely subjects in modern times and can do so when given the right opportunity.

However, because American Girl is an expensive brand, and has to be, as I’ve mentioned in one of my videos regarding Luciana Vega, Girl of the Year 2018, the people who can mostly afford American Girl are the rich, white demographic, and in America, they are mostly conservative. American Girl really took a risk releasing this character, knowing that she might not make a dime. With the pandemic still in full swing, more people are out of work and even I wouldn’t blame them if they went the safe route. Then again, companies are seeing there’s more benefit in including diverse audiences nowadays. Regardless, it was a risk either way, and yet they made it, knowing they could risk being cancelled.

Possibly this is the reason why Kira is the generic blonde, white character. Knowing they were tapping into something controversial, it’s likely they made Kira’s appearance “typical” so that even the most conservative parents would think she’s “cute” and “pretty”. She gives a safe image, really hiding the deeper moves that her stories are making behind the scenes. That creates the perfect balance.

Even though I haven’t been fond of the latest American Girl dolls as dolls, I can’t argue that their stories and themes have market value. American Girl really is aware of what’s going to sell, and it’s evident.

American Girl is also showing their willingness to expand the brand by having their characters travel to countries outside of the USA, possibly to connect to fans who actually aren’t American. Every few years, they choose a new destination theme, which shows American Girl’s wide-range appeal.


If you haven’t noticed, it took me literally a month to even give a perspective on Kira. Outside of the social impact her stories make, she’s honestly boring in my opinion.

I will admit that I took her at face value. When I first heard a blonde character with American Girl Julie’s face mold was going to be released, I was very disappointed. To add, I feel like Girl of the Year seems to talk a lot about wildlife and animals in a lot of their content, especially in the “destination” themes.

When her collection was released, I just didn’t find one item worth the price. The tent and the clinic with the desktop computer were the only items I was on the fence with, but everything else felt like they belonged to another character from a distant past. There has to be more to girls today than the same old stories. We have children in band, playing chess, playing football, a lot more than rescuing animals.

American Girl can create whatever diverse storylines they want to, but if you do so behind a character that’s as bland and generic as Kira, that message is totally lost. American Girl is expensive, that’s the reality, so if I do buy an American Girl doll she has to be well worth the wait.

So far, Kira’s stories are more interesting than the doll itself. I always end up buying the books, but I’m very selective about the dolls and collection. With Kira, I think I just might stick to the books.

Let me know what you all think in the comments’ section. What do you all think about her stories? How do you feel about the doll? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

You can also watch Kira Bailey’s stop-motion series based on her book series!


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