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One of the hottest new toys of 2017 here at Rock Father HQ is the latest American Girl - Girl of the Year (GOTY), Gabriella McBride. For the first time ever, the folks at Mattel revealed that their GOTY would remain available for the foreseeable future, and that change in routine was just the first move in what's shaping up to be a very big year. Ahead of Toy Fair getting started in New York this weekend, news has come down that American Girl will be introducing "a new series of contemporary characters and stories designed to speak to even more girls' interests, backgrounds, and experiences." It begins very soon - February 16 with the release of Tenney Grant, "a rising star in the Nashville music scene," and her drummer - American Girl's first-ever boy character, Logan Everett.

As I type this, right now, at this very moment, my wife and our girls (The Rock Daughters™) are having a "girl's day out" with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. They're at American Girl Place in Chicago for lunch today, so it's impeccable timing that Mattel just sent over the official details on the 2017 Girl of the Year doll from American Girl - Gabriela McBride. Gabby is described as "a true creative talent who uses the power of poetry to help her break down barriers and overcome a personal challenge with stuttering." See the full details on this great new doll from the official announcement below!

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The 18" Doll market is exploding right now, and when it comes to affordable options that don't sacrifice quality, I often recommend the Our Generation line of dolls and accessories by Battat, sold exclusively at Target here in the United States. We've reviewed some of the items here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine over the years, and there have been plenty of others that we've purchased that haven't made it into my virtual pages. Recently, I ran into the folks from Battat at The Toy Insider's HoliDAY of Play in NYC and took a peek at some of their new offerings, but what they didn't tell me was something that arrived in my email via press release last week - that they'd partnered with Target to create special "shop-in-shop" Our Generation destinations as a concept inside 19 select stores. Seeing as one of them happened to be located just a short drive from Rock Father HQ, I took our resident OG Doll expert, Addie, to check it out.

One of the most exciting and most important toys to arrive here at Rock Father HQ this year is one that I first covered here on the site over a year and a half ago... WONDER CREW. Initially launched via a successful Kickstarter Campaign, these 15-inch soft-bodied dolls were created by a mom who noticed a lack of toys that encouraged friendship and empathy being marketed to boys - essentially the reverse of what my wife and I (along with many others) see as the parents of two girls. Gender roles in play has been a hotly-debated issue in recent years, but spinning it back to my own childhood, the answer has always been a simple one - to let kids be kids and play with what they'd like. Thing is, it's mostly the grownups that are responsible for forcing a "this" and "that" mentality to kids, and even if you strip away all the debate, one thing is quite certain: it's very difficult to find a male doll in any toy store or department. Back in the 80s we had "My Buddy" and a host of Cabbage Patch Kids, but now lately it's been nearly impossible to find a doll that represents a boy - and even our girls have noticed. Wonder Crew takes a step in the right direction, and they're really great toys.

When I first wrote about DC Super Hero Girls just over a year ago, I knew that the initiative would be something special - a long-overdue chance to fill some gaps in entertainment and play. As parents of two young girls, my wife and I have seen the little ones embrace iconic superheroes like Supergirl, Wonder Woman and Batgirl (along with their male counterparts) without really having anything substantial to back it up, quite unlike the multitude of other pop culture interests out there. These characters were underutilized to reach new generations, their stories and adventures scattered through un-unified worlds and mediums. DC Super Hero Girls changed all that, bringing together the female heroes and villains of the DC Universe into a new realm - placing them as High School-aged students learning their paths in life, but in a way relatable to younger kids. With an online animated series, books, toys and more, it's all been given purpose - a mission that DC's Diane Nelson described as "stories of empowerment, inspiration and optimism." First rolled-out exclusively to Target stores this Spring, DC Super Hero Girls toys and products will go out en masse starting in June, with the full collection of poseable action dolls and figures starting to hit the toy aisles of retailers everywhere. The folks at Mattel recently sent us the first wave of six action dolls to check out, and we're presenting them now in this edition of UNBOXED + PLAY!

When it comes to music festivals, my "Old Crankypants" alter-ego tends to come out. The April arrival of the two-weekend Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival is essentially the start of festival season here in the U.S., and for the most part, the most high-profile fest in the country holds little interest for me. Sure, they score a few sweet headliners like GUNS 'N ROSES this year, and the mighty FAITH NO MORE a few years back, but the running joke of the dozens of bands slapped on the poster in an increasingly smaller font is just that - a joke. Then we have Lollapalooza here in Chicago, a fest I still haven't attended since it planted its flag on Illinois soil for a permanent run - preferring to remember it as a traveling carnival of awesome from the 90s. In fact, the only fest locally that I've been known to support 100% is RIOT FEST, but I will say that the upcoming Chicago Open Air has my attention (needs some Product of Hate, though). Cranky business in lineups aside, the amount of press releases that I receive each year about the culture surrounding Coachella is fascinating. There's usually two things being pitched - "VIP" packages that would be unaffordable for most ($25K-$50K), and fashion. A lot of fashion. On the latter note, I really have no gripes, which is why it's actually sort of cool to see that MGA Entertainment has issued a new series of "Music Festival Vibes" BRATZ dolls... though "Old Crankypants" does come back when it comes to BRATZ.

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