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Caroline’s Secret Message is the second book in Caroline’s original series. It was first published in 2012, and in 2014 it became part of the anthology Captain of the Ship: a Caroline Classic Volume 1. It is written by Kathleen Ernst and illustrated by Robert and Lisa Papp.

At the beginning of the book, we are reminded that America is at war with Britain, Papa has been kidnapped, and Mama is running his shipyard business. Caroline and Grandmother are working hard on household chores. While Caroline is working in the garden, Caroline sees her cousin Oliver! He was kidnapped too, and Caroline was sure that Papa would be with him. But he’s not. Bummer. Oliver reports that the British dropped him off somewhere on US soil, but since they heard Papa was a master shipbuilder he was not released. The British have more prisoners than they can handle across the lake in Kingston, so they’re planning to move some east to Halifax.

Halifax! That’s way too far away from Sackets Harbor, so Mama decides to go to Kingston. She needs to see Papa, and maybe she can convince the British officers to release him. Good luck with that Mama. Mama feels prepared for the journey; she’s an experienced sailor. She promises, “I’ll watch the weather and stay close to the shore. I can always stop to rest or take shelter at the Baxter place.” Seth the mailman replies with a sharp “No!” Apparently the Baxters are loyal to the British, and the journey will be more dangerous than Mama thought. Mama is nervous to travel alone. Cousin Oliver volunteers to help, but the family does not want him to delay enlisting for the navy.

Poor Cousin Oliver.

Other companions for Mama’s journey are suggested, and I’m sure you’re all shocked to learn that Caroline is elected. So she packs up her handbasket, to make sure Papa doesn’t get sent to Halifax.

As the girls are packing, there’s a knock at the door. It’s the Hathaways! Strangers at this point, Mrs. Hathaway and her two daughters (Rhonda age 12 and Amelia age 5) need a place to stay while Mr. Hathaway serves in the army. The Hathaways follow Mr. Hathaway anywhere the army takes him; sometimes they have to sleep in a tent. But how fortunate that they arrive just before Mama and Caroline are leaving! They can help Grandmother with chores!

The girls are to sleep in Caroline’s room, and there’s some tension between Rhonda and Caroline. But they bond a little over sewing. Rhonda tells Caroline she can make lace, and Caroline shows Rhonda her current embroidery project.

My latest embroidery project

Caroline is embroidering a map of Lake Ontario. She’s gonna have it made into a fire screen and give it to Papa.

The next morning, Caroline and Mama are off to Upper Canada. “‘May I take my embroidery?’ Caroline asked. ‘When I’m worried, it helps me to stitch.'” As they’re setting sail, we learn that Caroline’s birthday is coming. Most of the other American Girls have birthdays in the spring, but this book is set in the fall. On the boat, Caroline has some selfish moments when she tells Mama she’s not getting along with Rhonda, but she dismisses these thoughts to focus on rescuing her father.

Ready to set sail

After a long day’s journey across the lake, they dock at Caroline’s Aunt and Uncle’s farm. They are thrilled to learn that Cousin Oliver is safe, but are still full of fear. When Aunt and Uncle settled in Canada, the border between the two countries didn’t seem to matter, but now it’s quite dangerous for them because they are living on British soil but loyal to the United States. So Aunt and Uncle are building a boat in secret so they can get back to the United States before they are forced to fight for the British. Mama shares her plan to give Papa a note inside the bible that will help him escape safely. Uncle calls out this terrible idea, because everything they bring to the prison will be searched by the guards. The chapter ends with Caroline working on her embroidery…”‘Oh!’ she said suddenly. ‘I have an idea!'”

Caroline’s plan is to mark on her embroidery the unsafe spots on the map (like the Baxters) and show it to Papa. When Mama and Caroline arrive at the prison, the guards will not let Mama in to see Papa, but Mama manages to negotiate to let Caroline in. Caroline’s basket is searched, but she gets to take it in, and she succeeds in showing her map to Papa, right under the nose of a guard.

The Caroline doll seems a little too happy for this dramatic moment, but look, a fort!

Caroline and Mama return home. The Hathaways are still there, and Caroline is green with envy when she sees Rhonda petting her cat, Inkpot. Caroline is mad at Rhonda, but Mama encourages her to think about how Inkpot feels. He was probably lonely while Caroline was gone. This advice also helps Caroline settle some differences with Rhonda. As she talks to Rhonda, she starts to realize how she feels. While Caroline is jealous of Rhonda’s nice dresses and how her father is not missing, Rhonda is jealous because Caroline doesn’t have to worry about getting her dresses dirty and she and Papa have such a strong relationship.

Inkpot and Addy. Cats are such traitors.

Meanwhile, Aunt and Uncle safely leave Canada and arrive at the Abbotts’ house in time for Caroline’s birthday. Caroline is pretty bummed that Papa hasn’t made it home in time for her birthday, but she gets some nice presents. Rhonda has made lace to put on Caroline’s new dress, and Aunt and Uncle have brought a handcrafted box with Caroline’s name on it. They explain that it was left on their doorstep before they left Canada, so Caroline knows it’s from Papa! Happy Birthday Caroline!

Caroline’s birthday dress

What a great story! Caroline’s special skills, and even her youth, were necessary to solve the problem. Interestingly, the ending wasn’t completely happy. Caroline’s father is still imprisoned. But I can’t help feeling hopeful that Caroline will triumph. I’m excited to read the next book!

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I recently read a list ranking all the American Girl historical characters. I didn’t really agree with the list, but I had trouble making my own list because my memory of some of the stories is a bit foggy. So I’m gonna try to reread all the books. But that’s not my something new. Book and movie reviews are some of my favorite things to read online. I like reading someone else’s take on my favorite characters and stories, or getting an intro for something I’m considering reading or watching.

So where do I start? American Girl now has 16 historical collections, and most of them have more than one book (Courtney only has one so far, but that should change soon). I think I have the best chance of keeping this going if I just read whatever and whenever I feel is right. Hopefully later I can sort and index them. Since I love all these stories, I’m worried that sharing my opinions of them will get boring. I have a feeling writing a review that’s informative and interesting will be much harder than reading one. I hope you don’t get too bored.

I decided to start with Caroline’s books, finding inspiration from my recent blog posts about a vacation with my Caroline doll. So now I’d like to get on to My Dolly Addiction’s first book review: Meet Caroline!

Meet Caroline is written by Kathleen Ernst and illustrated by Robert and Lisa Papp. It was first published in 2012. In 2014, Caroline’s first three books, including Meet Caroline, were compiled into Captain of the Ship: a Caroline Classic Volume 1. I want to be clear that I’m reviewing Meet Caroline, because the anthology may contain some minor changes.

At the beginning of Meet Caroline, Nine-year-old Caroline Abbott and her eleven-year-old cousin Lydia are sailing on Lake Ontario with Caroline’s father and Lydia’s older brother Oliver in the year 1812. Caroline and her family (Mom, Dad, and maternal grandmother) live in Sackets Harbor, New York, on the shore of Lake Ontario. Lydia, Oliver, and Caroline’s aunt and uncle live across the lake in Upper Canada (near present-day Kingston, Ontario). Caroline loves sailing and dreams of being captain of her own sloop. She feels she can make this dream a reality if she can prove to her father that she’s responsible. Caroline’s father is a shipbuilder with a business in Sackets Harbor, and one day he might build Caroline her own sailboat.

But we are promptly reminded that Caroline is just a child, when she and Lydia are playing with a top while on the boat, and almost cause a serious accident.

A top is part of the accessories for the Caroline doll

Caroline’s Papa is angry, but quickly forgives her. Then something terrible happens. A longboat flying a British flag approaches Caroline’s family’s boat, and a British officer boards the boat and captures Caroline’s father! Everyone aboard is very confused because they had not yet heard that the United States and Britain are at war. Papa and Oliver (and the boat) are taken to Canada as prisoners, Lydia is also taken to Canada (with a promise to be taken home–scary), and Caroline is escorted home by a mean British lieutenant.

Caroline breaks the bad news to one of Papa’s employees, Seth the kid who delivers the mail, and finally her mom and grandma. They try to calm themselves with tea. We learn that Grandmother lost her husband in the Revolutionary War. Seth the Mailman (the “Caroline’s Family and Friends” section calls him a post walker) volunteers to make a dangerous trip to Canada to send a message to Papa and Caroline’s aunt and uncle. Before Seth leaves, he tells the women that the new carpet for Caroline’s bed has arrived at the warehouse. Caroline is worried that the British will make her lose her carpet, as well as her father. I think this is meant to teach us that a carpet was a treasure to nine-year-old girls in 1812.

Chapter 4 establishes some expectations for men and women in 1812. As Mama and Caroline are heading to Papa’s shipyard, they encounter a neighbor Mrs. Shaw, who disapproves of Caroline spending time at the shipyard. In her opinion, Caroline should be in the home cooking and sewing. Mama defends Caroline
“There are many girls twice her age who aren’t as skilled at needlework.” This is the book’s second mention that Caroline likes needlework. When they arrive at the shipyard, the workmen assure Mama that they can keep building ships until Papa returns, but they’re not sure about paperwork and accounting. Thanks to Caroline spending so much time at the shipyard, Mama is confident she can keep the business running. Take that, Mrs. Shaw!

An American officer arrives at the shipyard. We learn that Abbott’s Shipyard will be important for the war effort. The navy will need boats. And we learn that the men serving on shore don’t have the right size cannonballs. Caroline and Mama head home and receive more disapproval from Mrs. Shaw. Caroline and her cat Inkpot enjoy her new carpet. We hear again that Caroline likes embroidery. Grandmother and Caroline have a heart to heart.

Remember the cannonballs that are too small? Meet Caroline concludes when Caroline sacrifices her carpet for the soldiers to wrap around the cannonballs, which will make them fit. War sucks. The end.

Meet Caroline is more action-packed than most American Girl books. We spend more time on the action than we spend learning about Caroline’s personality. But so far I like her. She is coping very well with her father being gone, and I think it’s pretty cool that she is the first American Girl to live on the frontlines of war. And with titles like Caroline’s Secret Message and Caroline’s Battle, it’s likely that we’ll see more of what that’s like in the rest of Caroline’s books. In our interactions at the shipyard, with Mrs. Shaw, and in a heart to heart with Grandmother, we learn about gender roles in 1812. At the end of the book, we are treated to a 6-page “Looking Back” section. It gives a quick background for the War of 1812. I vaguely remember learning about it in 8th grade US History, but don’t remember much about it. And I imagine most of the readers of Meet Caroline know even less about this war.

And maybe some of my readers. Here’s what I learned about the War of 1812 from the “Looking Back” section.

When Caroline was a girl, America was young, too. The United States was barely 30 years old and had just 18 states. But the population was growing. Its population had almost doubled since the end of the Revolutionary War. The nation was much bigger, too. Its land now swept from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains.

Although many Americans were pleased about their country’s rapid growth, Britain was not. America had won its independence in the Revolutionary War, but the two countries were not on good terms. Some Americans wanted to expand to the north and take control of Canada, but Britain wanted to protect its claim to the Canadian colonies. Britain also befriended Native Americans, who were angry that U.S. settlers had been taking their land. Many Americans believed that Britain was stirring up trouble on the frontier and encouraging Indians to fight the settlers.

Since the Revolutionary War, the British also had been capturing American sailors at sea and forcing them to serve in the British Navy. Over the years, more than 100,000 men had been kidnapped, leaving their children fatherless and their wives in poverty. More recently, the British had begun to block American ships from landing in other countries to trade, making it much harder for American farmers, merchants, and tradesmen to sell their products and earn a living.

Some Americans were very angry at Britain. They wanted to put Britain in its place. Though many other Americans disagreed with this plan, the United States declared war against Britain on June 18, 1812.

Meet Caroline, pp. 80-81

I hope you enjoyed the review. I’m excited to do another, and I’m hoping to get it done before too long.

“Caroline was born on the shore of Lake Ontario, and she’d been sailing for as long as she could remember.”

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As I mentioned in the last post, we had dinner in the city of Canandaigua. Since Canandaigua Lake is one of the Finger Lakes, I had to put a finger in it!

Caroline did not put a finger in the lake, but we did a little sightseeing around the lake before dinner.

pretty cute

I had to leave for home really early the next morning. A few photos from the journey home:

You don’t need this much legroom when you’re 18 inches tall
changing planes at O’Hare
and finally on a ferry

And that’s what I remember from a trip I took 3 years ago! I hope you liked reading about it, and I hope you’ll like reading what I have in mind to post tomorrow. Until then!

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In the afternoon we made a stop at another historic site, this time in downtown Palmyra.

We went to the Grandin publishing house, where the first Book of Mormon was published. We were guided by a volunteer, who was really passionate about history.

For the most part, we learned how books were printed in the early 19th century.

And the volunteer also guided me to a website he’s been contributing to, history.churchofjesuschrist.org. A good place to go if you want to learn about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Dinner that evening was a community cookout. Food, music, ice cream. Not the worst way to end a day.

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The next day I asked Lorrie to take me to the lake. And since there are a lot of lakes in the area, I meant THE lake. Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes. Caroline’s stories take place on Lake Ontario, which is why I chose her to bring on this trip. Also, her early 19th century wardrobe is fitting for learning about the church’s beginnings.

We were at Sodus Point, and I got a lot of lovely photos.

After our visit to the lake, Lorrie took us to the peppermint museum in Lyons. Lorrie’s a member of the historical society, and this is one of their sites. How cute are their peppermint-colored flowers?

We filled this day up with one more historic site, but I’ll save that for the next post. See ya later!

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On Thursday night we went to the Hill Cumorah Pageant. In the pageant, a cast of hundreds of volunteers tell stories from the Book of Mormon. I actually have several decent photos!

the cast mingles before the start of the show
the tree of life
crucifixion
fire!
Joseph Smith retrieves the plates

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After we saw the temple, we headed to the Smith Family Farm. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a tour guide. I have a couple of photos from the tour, and I hope I’m remembering properly what they are. I’m sorry if I’m wrong, but sometimes it’s hard to remember things from 3 years ago.

We started in the log home. We went upstairs to Joseph’s bedroom, which would be where Moroni visited him.

Then we moved on to the frame home, where Joseph and his new wife Emma lived when he received the gold plates.

I took a picture of the fireplace because Joseph’s sisters hid plates in the bricks of the fireplace, away from people who wanted to steal the plates (probably more for the gold’s monetary value than the spiritual value).

As I think more, maybe his little sisters don’t get credit for the fireplace. Maybe they just get credit for hiding them in their bed and pretending to be asleep.

The house tours were okay (obviously reconstructions, so not particularly educational), but the highlight of a visit to the Smith Family Farm is a walk into the Sacred Grove. We call it Sacred because a young Joseph walked into the woods in 1820 and prayed to the Lord, asking him which church he should join. He was answered by a vision of God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. We call this the First Vision, and the answer was none of them. In the following years, Joseph was led to restore the true church.

My visit to the Sacred Grove was not as spiritually fulfilling as I hoped. Like most good church activities, it was full of noisy children. Not quite what I had imagined.

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Our primary destination for this trip was Palmyra, NY. It’s a small town that few have heard of, unless they are also members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I was invited to Palmyra by a friend named Lorrie who moved there early in 2017. I actually met Lorrie in 2015 when Leonie and I went to Newfoundland! We were able to stay in touch through Facebook, and she invited me to her new town, knowing that I would be interested in the nearby church history sites.

We spent our first day focusing on these sites. We started at the Hill Cumorah Visitors Center.

At the Visitors Center there are missionaries that can tell you everything you need to know about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I seriously believe they have the answer to any question. It was especially helpful for Lorrie to hear about the beginning of the church, because she is not a member. The Visitors Center is the perfect place to start to give context to the surrounding sites. Since most of my readers aren’t members either, I’ll do my best to give these sites context.

Our next stop was the closest to the Visitors Center: the Hill Cumorah monument.

Atop the Hill Cumorah, Joseph Smith was given the plates that became the Book of Mormon. By Midwest standards, it’s a big hill, but it wasn’t very difficult to climb to the top.

It was cool seeing the sets for the upcoming Hill Cumorah Pageant (I’ll share more on the pageant later, but here are a few photos)

The figure at the top of the hill is the angel Moroni. According to Joseph Smith’s personal history, the angel appeared in his home three times and told him about ancient scriptures written on plates of gold and buried on the hill. Joseph went up the hill the next day and uncovered the plates, but the angel would not let him take them until the proper time arrived. Joseph was instructed to go up the hill every year for four years, and then the plates were given to him. The time was finally right for the world to receive the fullness of the gospel, and first Joseph must translate the plates, with the help of the Lord.

Moroni stands at the top of the hill, holding the plates and encouraging the world to hear and heed the gospel.

Moroni also stands atop many of the temples of the Church, with his horn to call all the world to worship.

We drove to the Palmyra Temple next. To go inside, a church member must be interviewed and found worthy to enter. I have been, but Caroline and Lorrie have not, so we simply admired the outside of the building.

After seeing the temple, we went to the Smith Family Farm and the Sacred Grove, but I think I’ll save those for the next post. Until next time!

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…I brought Caroline on a trip to upstate New York. It was in July of 2017, and then some life happened and I never blogged about it. But I’m ready to give it a go now. I hope it’s enjoyable.

The journey began immediately after work on a Tuesday. Here’s Caroline hanging out at work:

Dressed in her traveling clothes, we took a ferry that night, then headed to the airport in the morning. Here’s a photo waiting at the ferry terminal:

And we spied a friend in line at the airport!

Caroline napped comfortably on the long flight across the country.

We changed planes in Philadelphia. I have a few photos to help me remember. First, the baseball and football stadiums as seen from the airplane.

My sister and I have toured twenty or so Major League Ballparks, but we are quite low on photos of our trip to Philadelphia, so this one actually makes a very nice addition.

Next, a cheesesteak!

And finally, Caroline looking all cute waiting for the next plane:

It was a short flight from Philadelphia to Rochester, NY. We landed at sunset…

…and were thoroughly welcomed at the airport.

We spent our first night at a comfy hotel near the airport. See ya tomorrow!

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Halloween costumes are on!

Twenty-two, McKenna, Marisol, Mia, and Ruthie are cheerleaders:

And Pearl, Joss, and Jess have a Disney theme:

And here’s the rest:

Back row: Kailey as a goatherdess, Nanea, Molly, and Kanani as hula dancers, Carfoline as a genie, Lanie as an Irish dancer, Emily as a hippie, Isabelle as a witch, Unicorn as a skeleton, Tenney as a monster, Nicki as a witch, Kaya as a Native American.

Front row: Marie-Grace as a kitty, Grace and BonBon as a lion tamer, Gabriella as a mermaid, Samantha as a ballerina, Ivy as a dragon dancer, Nellie as a cowgirl, Chrissa as a flapper, Maryellen as a spider witch, Melody as a medieval princess, Molly is just wearing a halloween spirit outfit, Z is a bee, and Blaire is an Irish dancer.

These girls are dressed more for Christmas, as their outfits are for the Nutcracker:

Elizabeth is from the land of sweets, Kirsten is Clara, Cecile is a snowflake, and down on the floor, Felicity and Gwen are ready to take the stage as the Nutcracker Prince and the Mouse King.

And you may have noticed a new girl, yet to be named (though I’m leaning toward Amethyst)!

She cost twice as much as a regular American Girl doll, but she has glitter around her eyes and pierced ears and her outfit has Swarovski crystals. She is a limited edition (mine is number 2707 of 5000), and I love her. Her hair and eyes are gorgeous, and Courtney’s arrival has made all my girls excited about earrings.

Any other dolls out there ready for Halloween?

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