Barbie’s Adventures to Read Aloud by Jean Bethell and Illustrated by Claudine Nankivel
Copyright: 1964 by Mattel, Inc. Cover price: $0.39
Did you know that Barbie circa 1964 had brown hair? I did, but that’s only because I sometimes got to play with my aunt’s old Barbie doll. As you can see on the cover (Barbie is to the right, and her BFF Midge is on the left), she does!
Did you know that Barbie has a last name? She’s Barbie Roberts! And Ken’s last name is Carson. In re-reading this book, I find that Midge does not have a last name. Are there still Midge dolls available in stores now?
The front cover, near the bottom, says: “America’s favorite foll, Barbie, comes alive in a series of fast-moving, madcap adventures that will have boys and girls alike begging for more. Join her and her friends and let the fun begin!” Really? Boys, too? The cover itself calls out for girls!! Where’s Ken on the cover?
This book is really a series of ‘episodes’ really, a chapter takes us a little farther into 9 months of teenage Barbie’s life. I was given this book by my grandpa about 25 years ago. (He and my grandma also brought me another book at the same time, but I will discuss this one later.) I think they thought that I would enjoy this book, and at the time, I was the only granddaughter (they had five grandsons otherwise). I was just about 8 years old. I was the proud owner of one Barbie doll with blond hair. It was fascinating to see a brown-haired Barbie in the midst of 1980s Barbie-blondness. At the time, it was only about 20 years since the book was published.
The first chapter is about Barbie’s birthday. It is apparently her sixteenth birthday, and it strikes me as very funny now how this was — “Overnight you’ve become a grownup. You’re not a baby any more. Of course, Barbie had noticed that when people become very ancient-when they reach twenty-two, for instance – they aren’t as happy about having birthdays as they used to be. But she thought she understood why. After you’ve lived twenty-two whole years, you’re probably very tired and feeble” (6). She thinks everyone who’s “tired and feeble” and even her not so feeble BFF (in today’s parlance) Midge have forgotten her birthday! Oh no! Barbie shouldn’t have been worried, however, because her parents have planned a marvelous surprise party for her. Surprise!!
In “The School Play”, their English teacher Mr. Sutton announces the tryouts for the school play, which is going to be a fairy tale. In light of all of the recent Barbie movies where Barbie is the princess, this chapter is really very funny and a bit ironic. Barbie spends most of this chapter preparing for the audition – making sure she looks princess-like in her looks, how she walks, and so on. The night before she puts her hair in curlers and goes to bed after lounging like she expects a princess would do. Guess what happens next. . . when she wakes up in the morning, she is all stuffed up, and her voice is hoarse! She can hardly speak! Oh dear! Every thing seems to go wrong. During her audition, the heel of her shoe breaks, so now she is walking oddly, too. What else can go wrong?
Well, luckily for Barbie, Mr. Sutton keeps in her in the play. She’ll have the opportunity for stardom that she’d dreampt of. . . but as the “Wicked Old Queen”, instead. Mr. Sutton says that she will definitely be the star of the play with this role if she is as terrible in the performance as she was in the audition! Meanwhile, the sterotyping in this book is rather blatant: When Mr. Sutton gives the Princess role to Marcia Nolan, he tells her, “‘We can’t have a Princess with a short read crewcut'” (67).
How about Barbie’s Adventures in High School Musical style? Hmmm. . .
In “Barbie’s Big Adventure”, we find out this: “Barbie had a job! It was the first job she had ever had, and she was enjoying the new experience very much. She was working as a leader at the summer camp in Willow Community Park” (87). Ken was working at the summer camp, too, as a swimming instuctor. He has a group of little boys, one of whom is very naughty. Barbie takes her group of girls on a hike. The girls have never been in the woods before, and one girl asks if they’ll see an elephant. First: “Barbie made sure each girl was wearing comfortable rubber-soled shoes” (89). They use markings of various kinds to mark their path so they can find their way back out of the woods. Then the naughty little boy whom by now Ken has kicked out of the pool due to his naughtiness has wandered into the woods and begins destroying the trail markers.
Never fear – the girls are not lost for a long time. Barbie does a good job with the girls. Ken does try to come to the rescue, though, when a rock with Barbie’s lucky hair ribbon is brought back to camp by the naughty little boy.
In a previous chapter, “A Present for Mother”, Barbie wants to give her mother something homemade for Mother’s Day. However, a ‘naughty little boy’ comes into play here, too. Barbie buys leather and leather working tools to make her mother a purse. She takes the supplies to Midge’s house so she can work in secret. This is when we learn that Midge has a little brother, Albert. When Barbie and Midge take a break from their ‘hard work’ (Midge is wrapping a bottle of perfume for her mother, which is just such hard work apparently. . .) to drink milk and eat the cookies Midge’s mom had freshly baked, Albert slips into Midge’s bedroom to cut up all the leather. We just learn that Albert is “naughty” and we never learn anything else about him. I wonder if there was an Albert doll?
There are more chapters that I have not covered, but really you’re not missing that much. There is the trip to the beach and the story of the lost little dog. We do learn that Barbie’s father, Mr. Roberts, is allergic to dogs, so that’s something.
I will probably be reviewing Joan Lowery Nixon’s The Other Side of Dark next time.