ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque has a new hometown girl – and she’s 18 inches tall.
The latest addition to the popular American Girls franchise is 2013 Girl of the Year Saige Copeland, a 9-year-old Albuquerque girl who loves horses, art and spending time on her grandmother’s ranch. The book and doll debut Tuesday.
Every year, the company releases a “Girl of the Year” designed to reflect the diverse backgrounds and interests of girls today.
Each doll comes with a book and accessories. In the book about Saige, Vermont author Jessie Haas adds New Mexico touches throughout – Saige looks up at the Sandia Mountains, tall cottonwood trees and “the huge, deep, brilliant blue sky.” Her father is a commercial pilot and balloon pilot, her mother teaches math at the university and her grandmother Mimi is a painter who raises horses on her Albuquerque ranch.
In the story, Saige leads a fund-raising effort to add art and music classes at school, while negotiating troubles with her best friend and training her grandmother’s horse, Picasso.
Choosing a Girl of the Year takes about 18 months and includes extensive research and focus groups with girls and moms, says Julie Parks, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin company.
“We want to make sure that when we’re creating a new character, it’s going to speak to girls today,” she says.
After deciding on a girl who is passionate about art and horses, setting the story in Albuquerque was a “perfect fit,” she says, for its expansive landscapes, connection to horses and rich art and cultural history. Hot-air balloons also have girl appeal, because they are fun, colorful and off the beaten path.
The name Saige, which means wise, was chosen for its artsy, earthy feel. Using the name with an “i” made it distinctive and representative of the character’s creativity, Parks says. It is also a subtle reference to the Southwest.
American Girl will sell products from Saige’s story, like a doll-sized hot air balloon, a horse and a dog. The movie “American Girl: 2013 Girl of the Year,” starring actress Jane Seymour, also filmed last year in and around Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
The books will be available at Barnes & Noble and anywhere books are sold, according to a company spokeswoman. The doll is only available at American Girl stores and through the website americangirl.com. A Saige doll-and-book package will cost $110 and a starter collection – a doll, three outfits and two books – will be $211, the spokeswoman said.
Saige puts New Mexico on the American Girl map again. One of the company’s historical dolls, Josefina, lives in colonial New Mexico in 1824 during the opening of the Santa Fe Trail.
American Girl also sells Bitty Babies, historical dolls and dolls that girls create themselves online. The company has sold 21 million dolls since 1986 and 139 million books.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal