American Girl’s 2022 Girl of the Year, Corinne Tan, is a true trailblazer who is proud of her Chinese heritage. While Corinne’s story is filled with outdoor adventure and fun, the central theme is about the power of love—among family members (including loyal pets!), friends, and communities. Love gives her the courage to challenge negative stereotypes and speak up for positive change.
Embrace family change
Now that Mom has remarried, Corinne isn’t sure how she fits into her new family. The house she’s lived in her whole life—with Mom, Dad, and Gwynn—isn’t home anymore. Now she’ll either stay at Dad’s apartment in Basalt or Arne’s townhouse in downtown Aspen. Where is home, anyway? Corinne has to learn that no matter how her family changes, they’ll always have love to keep them together.
Home was more about the people than the building you lived in. That’s what I should have realized. The Chinese character jia could mean house, but it could also mean family.
Corinne tends to keep her feelings bottled up, especially if she’s worried about upsetting people. She’s so afraid of how her best friend, Cassidy, will react to Arne’s fancy townhouse and Gwynn’s expensive skating lessons that she keeps her new life a secret. After the truth comes out, Corinne realizes that keeping secrets actually does more harm than good.
I was starting to feel like an overinflated balloon, getting full of more and more things I couldn’t talk about. I just hoped I wouldn’t pop.
Stand up to racism
Corinne is proud to be Chinese American, but racism leaves her tongue-tied. At the skating rink, a boy tells her she has “Kung flu,” referring to COVID-19. The comment makes her feel terrible, but she’s too stunned to respond.
Mom shows Corinne how to stand up to racist bullies. One afternoon, Corinne and Gwynn overhear a man make a racist joke outside Mom’s restaurant. When they tell Mom what happened, she runs after the men to confront them. Watching this interaction gives Corinne the words and courage she needs to stand up to her own racist bully.
"You were so brave, Mom!" I said. "I wanted to say those things, but I couldn’t find the words fast enough. You stopped them in their tracks."
"Bullies often stop when someone finally confronts them,” said Mom.
Tackle problems one step at a time
Corinne learns that all journeys start with a first step. To train Flurry to become an avalanche rescue dog, she starts with basic skills, like playing hide-and-seek, before working up to advanced skills, like searching for people buried in the snow.
In Corinne to the Rescue, she must put this problem-solving approach to the test on a summer camping trip. To get emergency help for her stranded family, she, Cassidy, and Flurry must climb over an enormous rockslide. The obstacle seems impossible, but they tackle it one boulder at a time.
"I’m so glad you didn’t stop. Even when it was scary. I was getting thirsty."
"We just kept going. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes crawling. But we didn’t stop."
Author Wendy Wan-Long Shang brought Corinne to life in two incredible books. Here’s what she has to say about the process and the story.
What was your experience like writing these books?
I had an amazing time writing Corinne’s series! I wrote much of it during the beginning of the pandemic, so in many ways, writing about Corinne gave me a chance to escape into another world, filled with outdoor adventures and a town I’d never been to—Aspen, Colorado. I also appreciated the opportunity to dig into part of Colorado’s history and culture; that information helped ground and enliven the story, from the history of the Chinese in Colorado to learning that there are two state songs. Anyone who knows me will also recognize some of my favorite things in these stories—family dinners, bookstores, and dogs, always dogs!
Why is Corinne’s story important?
One aspect of Corinne’s story that is so important to me is the power of love. Love can make us unexpectedly brave, and love can move us to forgive. Corinne experiences complicated feelings because her family changes—her mother remarries and Corinne moves into the posh part of town—and Corinne worries about how that change affects her dad and best friend, Cassidy. She also discovers that you can love someone who hurts your feelings, and it’s important to speak up and let your feelings be known, even if you have to repeat yourself to get your message through.
Explore more of Corinne’s story with your girl by reading Corinne and Corinne to the Rescue, written by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and illustrated by Peijin Yang.
Listen to the Corinne audiobook together, Narrated by Carolyn Kang!
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