An American Girl Story – Ivy & Julie 1976: A Happy Balance

Ages: 6 - 10Producer: Amazon Studios

This Amazon Prime Video tells the tale of Ivy Ling, a second-generation Chinese-American girl living in 1976 San Francisco. Ivy straddles two cultures, trying to please her very traditional Chinese family while also figuring out how she fits in among her more typically American peers.

Ivy’s relationship with her best friend, Julie Albright, only serves to shine a spotlight on the differences between these two cultural identities. The models in the teen magazines the girls leaf through look nothing like Ivy. Ivy’s gymnastics practice schedule clashes with Chinese-language classes. Dinner is often take-out from her grandparents’ Chinese restaurant instead of the pizza her pals eat. Ivy’s identity struggle comes to a head when her all-city gymnastics meet is scheduled for the same evening as her family’s big Chinese New Year dinner. While Ivy’s parents want her to attend the family celebration, they decide that, ultimately, it should be Ivy’s decision about which event she’ll attend.

After a few insensitive stumbles with her family, Ivy takes the dilemma more seriously, paying closer attention to family traditions and talking to her grandparents about their experiences as immigrants to America. With support from best friend Julie and her family, Ivy finds a way to draw strength from the best of both cultures and live happily with a foot planted firmly in each world.

The plotline and script are fairly elementary but, like most other offerings in the An American Girl Story Amazon Original series, this 45-minute movie does a capable job of reflecting the era in which it is set.

Viewers will root for Ivy, and tween girls in particular are very likely to relate to this program’s broader themes about fitting in. It’s a feel-good story that shows how, with the support of family and friends, seemingly disparate puzzle pieces can add up to a happy and complete picture.

Gina Catanzarite ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster’s Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.