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The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie / by Tanya Lee Stone

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Title: The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll's History and Her Impact on Us 
Author: Tanya Lee Stone

Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0-670-01187-2
Year: 2010

Concepts: producers, consumers, marketing, entrepreneurship, supply and demand, corporate development

Review: In the United States, ninety percent of girls aged three to ten own at least one Barbie doll, and worldwide, Barbie has represented some fifty nationalities. Invented more than fifty years ago by entrepreneur Ruth Handler, Barbie has generated not only tremendous sales growth, but also animated debates by parents and professionals about the influence Barbie has on children. Advocates have characterized Barbie as a source of empowerment as girls think about different roles and careers when they play with her, while critics have argued that Barbie's unrealistic body proportions are demeaning to women and can contribute to poor self-esteem among girls.

With her sharp business skills and tireless work ethic, Ruth Handler cofounded Mattel in the mid-1940s with her husband and a colleague. Bolstered by growing consumer demand and a strong economy, the company expanded rapidly, especially in the area of toy production. Ruth became interested in developing a teenage fashion doll for girls that differed from the cuddly baby dolls on the market at the time. By 1959 she and her company launched the Barbie doll, named after her own daughter Barbara. The doll proved extremely successful, along with all the clothes, accessories, and companion dolls introduced thereafter, including the male doll Ken, named after Ruth's son.

This historical narrative provides a wealth of interesting information about the invention and rise of the Barbie doll. Thoroughly entwined throughout the book are a series of lessons in economics and business, especially those related to entrepreneurship, marketing, and corporate development. The book serves as another good example of how author Tanya Lee Stone has a knack for engaging young readers and challenging them to think about the contributions of influential American women

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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