I gave in…but… (review of Tenney’s Banjo, Guitar, Spotlight Outfit and Hat/Necklace set)

Up until recently I did very well with not purchasing anything from American Girl.  My last purchase had been on January 26th, and I was trying my best to stick to it.  Unfortunately, temptation came in the form of Tenney Grant and her accessories.  I managed to do well, but then I discovered that Kohls was selling most of her accessories along with Tenney and Logan.  Hmmm…  First off, there would be no shipping and handling fee, PLUS because Kohls was selling them, it would mean less money going into American Girl’s pockets.  Let’s be honest here, Kohls is probably making a decent percentage off each item sold.  That made it hurt a little bit less.  And then, there’s this lovely thing called Kohls Cash, earned for spending so much in one trip.  I decided to investigate.

The one thing I was most tempted by was Tenney’s banjo.  It looked super cute in all the photos, and I have this thing for musical instruments to begin with, having taken more than my fair share of music lessons in my younger days.  Plus it actually played music, so what wasn’t to love?  After great debate, I decided to end my boycott of all things AG and purchased it.

I know a lot of people aren’t fond of the new packaging, but in the case of the banjo, I actually thought it was nicely done.  The box is of nice quality, meaning that the banjo itself is well protected.  Anyone who has purchased the guitar with case that was previously released can vouch for the very strange packaging on that item.  This is a definitely improvement!

The banjo itself is very cute and well done with a lot of details.  The only drawback I can see to it is it’s all plastic, so if it gets dropped, it’s going to break, no doubt about it.

The back is where the battery compartment is, as well as an on/off switch to conserve the battery.  I do like this feature on AG items, makes accidentally turning it on and draining them less possible.

Here is a side view so you can see some of the additional details.  Hooks for the strap and the large button is how you play the music.  Overall I really liked it.  Except for one thing…

The strap is awful!!!!  I don’t know what they were thinking or where quality control was on this piece, but someone seriously dropped the ball.  It doesn’t even look like the one pictured on the box or the website!  It’s a shoddy piece of crap.  Sorry, but that’s what it is, and mine is going to be disassembled so I can use the hooks to make a proper one.  (Insert massive disgust emoji here)  It’s made of some sort of cheap vinyl and not well done to boot.  Not what one expects when forking over this kind of money.  Yoohoo American Girl!!!  You screwed up!

The little pick is cute, but one of those things that would be super easy to lose.  I did manage to get it on Louisa’s thumb, but it wasn’t easy, it kept popping off.  I hope it stays on Tenney’s thumb better. (And don’t yell at me if I don’t have it going the right direction.  I don’t play banjo!)

Even so, aforementioned strap didn’t deter me from purchasing anything else from this line.  Yet.  I decided to go back and get Tenney’s Spotlight Outfit and her Hat and Necklace Set.  By purchasing both at the same time, I earned a $10 Kohls Cash on this particular trip.  I should have thought this out a little better, but oh well.

Both of these sets are hit and miss.  And horribly overpriced.  We will start with the hat and necklace.

I love the hat, I think it is very nicely done.  I was very surprised when I got it out of the box to find that it’s actually stiff, which is nice.  I was thinking it was going to be more floppy, along the lines of Julie’s birthday hat.  However, the box that they made for it is not the right size and the hat is literally crammed into it.  I thought for sure I was going to damage the hat just trying to get it out!  This did not make me a bit happy, as it was the hat that I really wanted.  Fortunately, the packing gods were with me on this and I got it out without any damage, but I’d be willing to bet that not everyone has been that fortunate.

The necklace is a major fail on a lot of accounts.  First off, I’m not a fan of the cord type necklaces, but I really hate the knot set up.  I have a necklace like this for myself, and while it’s a neat system, it doesn’t translate well in this scale.

I think it is probably difficult for some people to figure out and if you have any kind of manual dexterity limitations, it is hard to get it to work.  Plus, unless you want the charm clear down to the dolls crotch, you see the knots.  Not well thought out at all.

But then, there’s an even bigger issue…

On mine, in order to get the treble clef facing the right direction, the AG side shows instead of the cute little bird.  You have no idea how much this annoyed me.  Sorry, but I’m getting tired of being a walking advertisement.  They should be paying me if my dolls have to go around with AG plastered in plain site all over everything.  And unless you know how to retie those knots, there is no way to get it apart in order to correct it.  So I’m going to remake it, using a different type of closure.  (Insert scowl emoji)

Overall I think these pieces are cute and had a ton of potential, but the lack of quality on the necklace is unacceptable.  This set is in no way, shape or form worth the $18 price tag.

On to Tenney’s Spotlight set.  Let’s talk about the packaging first.

I am on the fence about the clothing packaging.  I do like being able to see the items and knowing that I’m purchasing something that hasn’t already been handled by other shoppers.  However, it’s not very reusable as is.

I know a lot of people have had issues with other items in the new packaging ending up with holes in them.  I was very careful when I removed everything, and had no issues.  But I did notice a few things that seemed to help.

There are cut out flaps in the insert that the shirt and the skirt hooked over.  Sewing was minimal on these pieces to hold them in place, and the thread was held with only tape, so it was very easy to remove the tape and gently pull the threads out.  Neither piece ended up damaged.  On to the clothing itself.

The headband, yuck.  It’s a typical AG headband in that it’s too short to properly hold hair back and in some cases will probably pop off the dolls head.  And it’s a cheap excuse as well.  The headband itself is not covered with anything like previous headbands.  The stars are simply felt sewn on, and they have glitter on them.  Wow.  I’m so unimpressed.

The shirt is a cute idea and had a ton of potential.  Unfortunately, they made it super skimpy.  I wish someone would explain to the designers that at one time, AG clothing actually fit properly!  It’s very short (more on that in a minute) and the sleeves are really poorly set.  My particular shirt is done in such a way, the lace bunches up under the arm.  Can you imagine how uncomfortable that would be to wear?! (In addition to looking bad).  AG needs to hire someone who understands clothing construction, both on the design end and the assembly end.  Now I’m starting to understand why so much of their stuff is sleeveless, heaven forbid quality would cut into their profits!

The skirt is okay with a few minor issues.  It’s very short, but that’s more a personal preference for me.  And I couldn’t pull it down further on the torso without making the midriff on the doll show because of the skimpy top!  The waist is elastic on it and it was kind of difficult to get over her bottom.  And then to make things even worse, the glitter comes off onto your hands.  I’m hoping that situation will improve over time and it’s just some of the loose stuff.  Here’s a tip too for anyone who might purchase this set–DO NOT store the shirt sitting on top of the skirt.  The lace on the shirt catches on the skirt and snags.

The only good thing in this set is the boots.  I thought they were really cute, but I was concerned about the glitter on them also coming off.  I’m happy to say that it doesn’t.  The only issue I had with the boots is because of the fancy design they put on the sole, I did have a bit of trouble getting Louisa to stand properly.

Overall, I think the $36 price tag is ridiculous for this set.  The quality is lacking in so many ways, and I don’t see this as a set that is going to hold up to much play.  It was a major disappointment for me, and quite honestly, the thought has crossed my mind to just keep the boots and flip the rest of the parts on Ebay, I’m that let down.  Not sure what is going on at AG, but they need to get their act together.  I do have to admit though that Louisa looks awfully cute!

After that purchase, I still had my $10 Kohls Cash.  Originally I thought about purchasing the Picnic Outfit, but after seeing the poor workmanship on the clothing I’d already bought, I changed my mind and instead decided to get the guitar.  I’m happy to say that it’s the one thing that had absolutely no issues with, I was not disappointed at all.

Packaging is very similar to the banjo, and also sturdy.

The guitar is very well done, I just love it.  The attention to detail is terrific.  And the strap is nice on it too.  I’m still not sure what they were thinking with the banjo strap.

The back opens up much like the banjo for the battery compartment, and there is the same on/off switch.


Three buttons on the guitar, which I originally thought made it possible to pick which song you played, but it doesn’t. They are essentially one button made to look like three. Oh well.


The guitar set is more expensive than the banjo, I guess because it comes with this cute book??? Not worth $6 more. And I expected it to be an actual music book, but it’s more a notebook for Tenney to write lyrics in. The pick is cute, but another thing to easily be lost. Since I don’t have a doll that can hold it either, I’m just going to leave it in the plastic bag and store it in a safe place.

Overall, I’m happy with the guitar and the banjo (except for that strap).  The clothing items not so much.  I’m still not sure about purchasing anything else from American Girl after seeing this lack of quality.  If I do, I will definitely be VERY choosy about what I buy from here on in.  But I have a feeling that my Berry status in the Rewards program is going to go by the wayside when it comes up for renewal.  I’m just not feeling the love anymore.  I’d much rather support Etsy sellers.

In case you haven’t read it, Mattel posted their earnings for the 1st quarter and the results were not good at all.  American Girl alone was down 12%.  I’m sure that the whole permapanty mess and their lack of handling it properly affected those numbers a certain amount, as did their decreasing quality.  If you haven’t been to the AG website lately, be sure to go and read some product reviews.  I remember a time when you rarely ever saw a poor review for a product, and now it seems to be happening far too often.  American Girl and Mattel had better wake up and turn things around, or there will be a lot of people looking for jobs.  I keep reading about all of the plans they have for the line, but all of the plans in the world aren’t going to work if you don’t improve quality and listen to your customers.

A “Knight” To Remember

One of the things I was doing while on my break was a quick visit to see Evil Twin.  I hadn’t been down there to visit for quite sometime so it was long overdue.  While we were making our plans, she told me about an event that Zoe and Felicity were going to that was sponsored by the Daughters of the Revolution.  When Alya heard me talking about it, her ears perked right up, and she insisted she had to go!

When we arrived, Zoe and Felicity were already in costume.

“Wow, you guys look awesome!” exclaimed Alya.  “I can’t wait to see this place.  What exactly will we be doing?”

Felicity replied.  “We will be making sure that all of the beverage pitchers are full for the banquet, so we will have to check them regularly and then take the empty ones back to the kitchen area so they can be refilled.”

“Sounds easy enough” replied Alya.  ” I guess I’d better go get into my costume so we can get going!”

When the girls arrived at the banquet hall, the first thing they noticed was the suit of armor near the fireplace.  “WOW!  Look at it Zoe, it’s so cool!” Alya said excitedly.  “I agree!” Zoe answered.  “I wonder if we could get up there to get our pictures taken with it?”

Alya started climbing…

 And climbed…

“TADA!” she yelled.

Then she went over beside him to get a picture taken.

“I wonder who this suit of armor belonged to Zoe? Maybe a prince, or even a king!”

“I have no idea,” replied Zoe, “but now I want to get up there too and get a picture.”

“Let me help you.”

Zoe got her picture taken, and then Felicity too.
  

Then we took a photo of all three girls with the suit.

Just as we were finishing up, the girls were called to come help. As they walked away, Alya whispered “Goodbye sweet prince, whoever you are!”

(We didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was just a holder for the fireplace tools…)

April Book Group Read: Isabelle

Hi everyone!!!  Are we ready to talk about this month’s book group read?  Let’s get started!

This months book was Isabelle by Laurence Yep.  In case you didn’t know, Isabelle was the Girl Of The Year for 2014.  She’s a dancer who has recently been accepted in a performing arts school where her sister attends, and unfortunately, finds herself living in the shadow of her big sister, also a talented dancer.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t read this book prior to this, probably because the subject matter didn’t interest me. I wasn’t a dancer when I was younger, and I didn’t have any friends who were either, so it was a story I couldn’t relate to at all. However, there were some aspects to the dance side of the story that I did really like! I especially liked the positive idea of how everyone is an individual and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others when it comes to our talents. As I read the book, I was continually thinking about the 80’s TV Show “Fame”, picturing the busy hallways and all of the different kids throughout the school, developing their artistic talents. And I loved the Washington DC references! My husband and I have been to Washington many times, and the descriptions of the different places were easy for me to picture in my mind as I read because of that. Washington DC is a wonderful place to visit, and I have to admit that I have always been a bit envious of anyone who lives in the area and can visit on a regular basis. So much to see and do, and I thought that was well represented throughout several parts of the book.

What I didn’t like–how the book started with a negative encounter between Isabelle and Renata. I would have rather had more development about Isabelle and Luisa at the beginning with the issues between Isabelle and Renata occurring later on. I also didn’t like how the book ended with Isabelle questioning her ability yet again. I realize it was probably done that way to encourage the reader to make sure they picked up the second book, but I didn’t care for the way it was presented.  Too much emphasis on negativity, and that bothered me.

I was also very surprised, in our politically correct culture to find that Isabelle’s sister and her group were going to be dancing as “gypsies”. Gypsy is one of those words that has a negative connotation in regards to a certain group of people known as the Romani, and for some members of that group, can be considered highly offensive. When I got to that part of the book I have to admit that I was a bit stunned. There were so many cultural and ethnic references throughout the book, not sure how this one got through.  They could have made the group as something else that wouldn’t have offended anyone. Not one of the best decisions on the part of whoever greenlights the books at American Girl.

My final take on the book is that I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I felt sort of middle of the road about it and I definitely did not enjoy it as much as I have some of the other American Girl books. I doubt I will take the time to look for the 2nd book in the series, although if I come across it at a yard sale or thrift store in my travels, I might pick it up.

What did you think of Isabelle?

Next month we will be discussing Meet Marie-Grace. June we will read Lea and July will be Rebecca.