Pros: looks just like my daughter, high quality
Cons: price, not all children look like the choices available
This past fall, my daughter had a playdate at a former classmate's house. John is 8 months older than she is so he had moved on to kindergarten. During the playdate, my daughter spent most of her time playing with her former classmate's twin sister, Ella, instead of with him. That's to be expected though - after all they are girls.
What wasn't expected was my daughter's interest in Ella's American Girl dolls. My daughter had never cared one iota about dolls and never played with them before.
One look at Ella's Just Like You and Nellie dolls though completely changed her attitude.
My little one just had to have an American Girl doll for her birthday. She simply had to have one! That's all I heard for months. She found an old Madame Alexander baby doll that was mine when I was a child, christened it "Donna" and slept with it nightly, promising it that she would introduce it to her American Girl doll that she would be getting for her "birfday".
How could I refuse?
The hardest part was deciding which doll to get for my daughter. She loves Molly but her current favorite was Samantha. Yet, when it was time to choose which books to take with her on a trip, she chose Kit.
I punted and went with the American Girl Just Like You doll. This way I wouldn't get stuck in the unenviable position of choosing the "wrong" doll and having a tearful child on my hands.
Choosing a Just Like You doll is a somewhat difficult thing to do. There are 23 choices and you can easily rule out most of them when deciding upon which one to get for your special little girl. In our case, my daughter has light brown wavy hair with bangs, blue eyes and a slight spattering of freckles across her nose. I wavered between "Light freckled skin, brown hair with highlights, blue eyes" and "Light skin, brown hair, blue eyes". The former looked more like my daughter but did not have bangs while the latter had the bangs but no freckles. We ended up with the first one.
You can't truly get a doll that is "Just Like You" unless you fit one of the 23 categories ranging from "light skin, blonde hair, blue eyes" to "dark skin, textured black hair, dark brown eyes". If your child is multi-racial with startling hazel eyes, you're out of luck. The same goes for the little girl of Irish descent on mom's side with curly red hair but her Italian dad's chocolate brown eyes.
You also don't get to choose a hair style. Some of the dolls have bangs, some don't. Some have their hair parted on the left, others on the right and some in the middle. Only two dolls have freckles.
If you can live with "not exact but pretty close", most children can get an American Girl Just Like You doll. Our daughter's doll ended up looking so much like her it was positively eerie. Aside from the bangs issue, the hair is a dead ringer in color to my little one's locks. The open and shut eyes are the same color, the freckles are a little heavier on the left, just as are my daughter's and even the open mouth showing her two front teeth with a tiny gap between them is an exact match.
These are not inexpensive dolls. You'll be spending a minimum of $87, just for the doll alone. But, you'll also get a high quality, beautiful doll. There are other companies out there who manufacture dolls that are supposed to resemble your child. I've seen the dolls and they are quite scary. The only scary thing about an American Girl doll is the price.
The American Girl Just for You doll is much like the other American Girl dolls in the Historical Series. She's 18 inches tall and has a soft cloth posable body. Her arms, legs and head are all vinyl. The hair should be styled with a wig brush. You can use the outfits and accessories from any other American Girl doll with a Just for You doll.
This doll comes dressed in a pair of beaded and embroidered denim blue jeans, a white t-shirt with rhinestones on the front, a magenta hooded and striped windbreaker, striped socks, purple underwear, white and blue tennis shoes and her hair styled in two ponytails.
The doll also comes with a "Friends Forever" book in which your child can fill in the doll's favorite things. My daughter promptly filled in everything she likes and then threw the book in the trash.
Every American Girl doll also has a separate accessory kit should you wish to purchase it. The Ready for Fun kit that goes with the Just Like You doll includes a vinyl purse, vinyl bracelet, keychain with Coconut on it, library card, pretend money and a miniature American Girl magazine.
You also have the option of ordering the doll with Coconut the dog. I chose not to order the dog and to simply get the doll. My daughter has shown no interest in getting the dog nor any additional clothes or accessories for her doll.
Although the Just Like You doll is an heirloom quality doll, my favorite thing about it is that it is meant to be played with and loved. When I was a child, I had a huge doll collection but I wasn't allowed to play with or even touch the dolls. Obviously, it was my actually mother's collection even though everyone said it was mine. I don't want toys to be off limits to my daughter unless there is a good reason. As far as I am concerned, dolls are meant to be played with. After two months of use, her Just Like You doll still looks uncannily "just like her" and looks as good as the day she opened the box.