Since her debut in 2016, Melody Ellison has found a home in the hearts of girls and collectors alike. Her hopeful nature and enthusiastic spirit, as well as her solid sense of fairness and her heart’s desire to make a difference, continue to resonate with people of all ages. On the anniversary of her story’s debut, here are five “notes” that will make you want to sing along with Melody!
Melody’s Museum Debut
Before she was available in stores, Melody made her debut at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. In a wonderful video shared via their social media channels, Melody joined storyteller Mama Jatu for a tour of the museum rotunda, and the museum hosted Melody’s launch party. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, Melody is “Detroit’s own,”—an extraordinary welcome for Melody from the city that informed and inspired her.
As an important city in the civil rights movement, Melody’s hometown of Detroit was selected to showcase one of the country’s most vibrant and thriving black communities of the era, home to more independent black-owned businesses than any other location in the country and to one of the largest chapters of the NAACP. Detroit laid claim to significant local civil rights events throughout the movement. The Detroit location also helps young readers understand that the struggle for civil rights was not just an issue in the South and that African Americans throughout the United States faced racial inequality and discrimination.
Melody’s Song Choice: “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
In No Ordinary Sound, Melody uses song as a way to express her support for the civil rights movement, choosing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” for an event at her church. The song is well-known in the African American community and is often called the Black National Anthem. But Melody picks it because the words are meaningful to her, personally: as she experiences for herself these pivotal moments, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” resonates deep within her, bringing family, faith, community, and the civil rights movement together as one.
Defining Moments in American History
Melody’s stories are set during a turbulent time in United States history: a time of community, a time of activism, a time of important change, but also a time of aggression, oppression, and violence. Set in the 1960s—when the civil rights movement was underway—Melody’s story touches on these subjects from a ten-year-old girl’s perspective. Weaving historically accurate details about significant moments in American history, like the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham or the Freedom Summer project, into fictional stories can be a powerful way for children to learn about important, complex events. Fictional characters like Melody can help children understand someone else’s point of view and spark meaningful conversations about the subject matter—and, perhaps, inspire courage in their hearts to stand up and speak out for causes that are important to them today.
Melody’s love of music is an important part of her stories, but no less important is her love of gardening. Working with plants connects her to her family and gives her a renewed sense of hope when she’s troubled. But as it does in Never Stop Singing , gardening becomes a way for Melody to develop as a leader and make things better in her community. What Melody does in her community garden was exactly what civil rights activists were doing across the nation: taking action. Her community garden is a wonderful way to show that the movement was led not only by the larger-than-life, important figures of the time, but also by ordinary Americans like Melody.
You and your girl can explore even more of Melody’s story in An American Girl Story—Melody 1963: Love Has to Win, available on Amazon Prime.
©2022 American Girl. American Girl and associated trademarks are owned by American Girl, LLC.