Imagine if you will, a world in which the Internet didn't provide the answers on nearly every topic imaginable. For a time, the onset of puberty, and all the questions that accompanied it, required having actual conversations with adults, and for some, those talks came with more questions than answers. Thankfully, American Girl stepped in to help, releasing The Care and Keeping Of You, a guide to growing up that still holds a special place in the hearts of those who first read it.
Released in 1998, The Care and Keeping Of You was not your average American Girl literature. The book, which has been released in updated iterations in recent years, was a guide to growing up, and within those hallowed pages was advice on everything from bra sizes to tampon insertion. It's certainly not the only guide to growing up that exists, but there was something about its messaging, and its use of adorable cartoons to illustrate the growth of boobs, that resonated with so many readers.
As Madge Maril, beauty writer, explained, the book came with a feeling of significance. "It really felt like this was a holy text for my era," she said. "I remember feeling like I'd unlocked a new level when my mom bought it for me, and I read it cover to cover at least ten times, probably more."
She noted how the book was released at a time when finding out information on puberty and sexual wellness wasn't readily available on social media or the Internet. "It was revolutionary to see something address eating disorders or bras or how to put in a tampon. This was back when Neopets made you fax in a form to play when you were under 13, before the internet got its edges sanded off and it was really possible to find any level-headed information about these topics," she recalled.
Along with providing a means of spurring conversations between adult and child, the book came with inclusive messaging — surely far more inclusive than any other literature targeted to the tween audience at the time. Kalynne Coleman, a senior manager of affiliate and publisher marketing at ColourPop Cosmetics, appreciated that the book took very heavy topic matter, that can often feel overwhelming or daunting to children, and made it accessible. "There were all types of people in the book, of all sizes, shapes, and colors," she noted. She recalled reading and feeling reminded that she wasn't the only one going through this period of growth.
Kayla Carmicheal, a brand manager in Chicago, echoed Coleman's thoughts, noting that the text didn't approach the topic of growing up in a way that felt patronizing. "The illustrations looked like me and my friends and offered detailed tutorials. The way it was written was like a big sister passed you down her own guidebook. You didn’t have to be afraid to ask questions because even the uncomfortable ones were answered," she said.
Sexual education in schools hasn't always been reliable, and for writer Jordan Snowden, Care and Keeping Of You provided her with a comfortable space to learn about these topics. "I read this book inside and out. My mom never officially had “the talk” with me. And while I was lucky enough to go to a school with good sexual education, it was hard to really pay attention in health class at an age when every single thing felt embarrassing," she said.
With all this newfound knowledge provided by the book, Nina Braca, writer, recalled feeling mixed emotions, saying, "It was one of the first times I became aware that there was some sort of shared experience with other people my age. We were all going through changes, and it felt...embarrassing to talk about it. I always wanted to seem like I was smarter than everyone, and the moment I realized that there was a long list of things my body was going to do that I wasn't ready for, I panicked."
Even with those feelings of panic and uncertainty, the book was a means of comfort and reassurance, a title that stuck with you, even after you had somewhat figured adulthood out. It was a guide for many, and years later, it's obvious that its contents remain as treasured as ever.