Monday, September 22, 2008

Kit Kittredge

We are not in a Depression. Not even close. We are simply, possibly on the verge of one. Keeping that in mind, you may want to consider giving your kids a lesson in spunk, to prepare them for riding the rails and selling apples on street corners.

To that end, I highly recommend the movie Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, which will be coming out on DVD on October 29th. This is a surprisingly nuanced movie. In keeping with the mission of the American Girl dolls, it goes to great lengths to be historically informative in an accurate and sensitive way. We get terrific glimpses of everyday life during the Depression: how people shopped and dressed and made dinner. Most importantly, for kids, are the complex portrayals of what it felt like to be a kid back then, with the fear of losing everything hanging over your head. The kids whose families have slid from respectability are mocked by some of their better-off classmates, and those with no family at all live their lives in the shadows, at the mercy of the kindness of strangers.

Kit begins the movie as a girl who is kind to those less fortunate, but terrified of becoming one of them. When her father's business collapses, and he has to leave town to find work, she is realistically mortified that she is going to become one of those kids that she used to pity. Abigail Breslin, who was so brilliant in Little Miss Sunshine, is really wonderful in this. She has said in interviews that she is a big fan of American Girl dolls, and that comes through in the heart, depth and intelligence that she brings to the role. Kit's spunk is real and earned after pushing through dark and troubled feelings.

The care and craft that went into this film is clear. The cast is terrific, and the script nicely balances information and emotion with some zaniness to keep the kids' attention. The visuals are lovely without a sepia-toned romanticism. All-in-all, it made me hope that my daughter will become interested in the American Girl dolls, so I can play with them with her, and continue to see the movies.

The timeliness of the film is, as mentioned, a side benefit. With luck, you can use this film to open up discussions on money, class, markets and how historical events can suddenly scoop us up like tornadoes, then drop us into a changed and challenging world.

How have you discussed our recent economic events with your kids? Have the volatile markets affecting you, and how are you coping with that?

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