American Girl’s latest guidebook, “A Smart Girl’s Guide: Body Image,” has some parents fuming over its discussion of gender expression and identity aimed at its audience of kids ages 10 and up.

The book, written by Mel Hammond, teaches readers about body image and body positivity. But critics have taken issue with the guide’s “Gender Joy” section, which explains pronouns, gender expression and gender identity. It explains what it means to be cisgender (“comfortable in the sex the doctor assigned”), transgender (when their “gender is different than the sex they were assigned at birth”) and nonbinary (when a person doesn’t “feel like a girl or boy inside”).

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The book also advises kids questioning their gender identity, or who know they’re trans or nonbinary, to reach out to an organization listed in the book or talk to a trusted adult.

“That person can connect you with a specially trained doctor, who can help you and your family decide what’s best for your body,” the guide says.

“Studies show that transgender and nonbinary kids who get help from doctors have much better mental health than those who don’t,” the book adds.

Dissenters bombarded the book’s ratings section on the American Girl website with 1-star reviews, leaving an average rating of 1.9 out of 5 stars as of Friday evening.


Critics were especially bothered by the book’s mention of what a doctor might suggest: choosing gender-affirming clothes and pronouns, or taking puberty blockers.

Some left comments accusing the brand of “indoctrinating innocent children,” “pushing hormonal blockers” and “contributing to the mass confusion that is running rampant in our society.”

The backlash comes as conservative legislators push false claims that people who are LGBTQ or who talk about topics related to gender and sexual orientation are “grooming” children for sexual abuse.

In addition to recent waves of anti-trans laws, some of which hinder the ability of transgender youth to seek gender-affirming care, more states are looking to copy the “don’t say gay” law in Florida, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education Law, which restricts what teachers can say about gender and sexual orientation in public grade schools.

American Girl stands by its decision to publish the body positivity book.

“We value the views and feedback of our customers and acknowledge the perspectives on this issue. The content in this book, geared for kids 10+, was developed in partnership with medical and adolescent care professionals and consistently emphasizes the importance of having conversations and discussing any feelings with parents or trusted adults,” wrote American Girl spokesperson Julie J. Parks in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. “We are committed to delivering content that leaves our readers feeling informed, confident, and positive about themselves.”


And although outnumbered, the website reviews that weren’t 1-star were overwhelmingly 5-star reviews defending the book.

“It is very matter of fact and suggests talking to an ‘adult you trust.’ They do state if you don’t have an adult you trust then there are a list of organizations you can reach out to for help,” one anonymous commenter wrote. “Maybe learn to do your own research instead of letting right wing tabloid news do it for you.”

American Girl’s “A Smart Girl’s Guide” series offers guidance to tweens on a range of topics such as race and inclusion, money and friendship troubles. The books are part of the company’s decades-long legacy of empowering girls with increasingly diverse representation.

The American Girl brand of dolls, books and toys was launched in 1986 by Pleasant T. Rowland, whose goal was to combine her love of history and educational products to inspire girls, the American Girl website states. Toy giant Mattel acquired the collection in 1998.

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