Every year, American Girl introduces a new modern-day character. You might have read about Nicki, who loves riding horses, budding archaeologist Jess, boogie-boarding Kailey and gymnast McKenna, to name a few.
This year's character is Isabelle. She loves to dance. And, for the first time, an American Girl character makes her home in Washington.
Author Laurence Yep helped choose the nation's capital from a short list of cities American Girl editors were considering.
"My wife and I had been to Washington quite a bit," said Mr. Yep, who lives in Pacific Grove, Calif. He has written dozens of children's books. "It just seemed like a natural fit," he said of the location. "The D.C. area has so many possibilities with the museums and the artistic scenes."
The books include places that are real and those that came from Mr. Yep's imagination.
"Isabelle," the first book in the series, introduces readers to 10-year-old Isabelle Palmer. She attends the Anna Hart School for the Arts along with her older sister, Jade. The school is not real, nor is it based on one school, Mr. Yep said. "But we did our homework checking on performing arts schools in the Washington area," he said.
When Isabelle's family goes on an outing to see the water lilies at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Northeast Washington it inspires a ballet costume that is central to the story.
"I think kids like having some touch with their lives, but they like you to spin off on things," Mr. Yep said.
Isabelle's stories seem like a stretch from Mr. Yep's own life, growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown neighborhood in the 1950s. But he said that some of the highlights from his elementary school days were performances that he and fellow Boys Club members put on.
"There were some times when things went wrong," he said. "You just had to get through it."
Isabelle has to face her own fears that things could go wrong in the school's Autumn Festival and later in a professional production of "The Nutcracker." Isabelle doubts that she's good enough to make a career out of ballet. But she discovers other talents while attending Anna Hart School for the Arts. The self-described outsider from the first book soon realizes she has a gift for helping her classmates. "Isabelle is the one who holds the group together," Mr. Yep said.
"Isabelle," "Designs by Isabelle" and "To the Stars, Isabelle," by Laurence Yep. About 120 pages each. Ages 8 to 12.