After an extended trip in Canada, in a fit of homesickness for my adopted country I ordered Léonie from Amazon. I would have purchased her in Canada and picked her up directly from the warehouse in Newmarket, but my baggage space was at a severe premium. Before I left, I put Saila’s box in my suitcase to see if it would fit and it did—but I would have to forget about packing any other souvenirs, or even bringing clothes.
This wasn’t going to happen (all those K cups from Tim Hortons were going to have to go somewhere), so Léonie got put on the back burner until I returned to the States. I did make a visit to the Maplelea warehouse to pick up a large order of items that they don’t have listed on Amazon. My traveling companion, Camel, had flown in from NYC and rented a car so that we could visit his sister and her children (our niece and nephew) at their vacation lodge. (Camel and his family are my “Chosen family”, and we’ve been in each other’s pockets for so long I think we’ve all forgotten that I’m not really related.) Since we had the car, a lot of things became possible that would have been much harder if we were only relying on public transit and soon we headed for points north.
Newmarket was “sort of on the way” to our destination that evening. I spent most of the ride out of Toronto with my hands clapped over my eyes, because Toronto traffic is terrifying (Canada, I love you dearly, but we really need to do something about adding left green arrows to your stoplight repertoire) and Camel was driving like a New Yorker which added an extra dimension of terror as we did the “Canadian Yield” through red lights and weaved in and out around slower cars, cement trucks, and roadworks.
“Cheer up, Mouse!” Camel said happily as we took a corner on two wheels. “Death is imminent!”
“Excellent,” I replied dryly with my hands still clamped firmly over my eyes. “I would much rather go quickly, as opposed to slowly.”
Soon the city was behind us, my heart rate dropped accordingly, and we made our way to Newmarket. Following the GPS, we exited off the highway and wound through various office parks until we found the pickup point at the warehouse. An otherwise unremarkable location, only the large Maplelea emblem on the door marked it as the spot.
A much, much smaller business than American Girl and if we hadn’t had so much to do already on our itinerary I would have loved to arrange a real visit and see about a tour the headquarters—but we simply didn’t have time on this trip. (when you only have a few days to explore a whole country stuff is invariably going to get left out.)
I had placed the order the day before and had received an email almost immediately afterward—whoever had read it caught that my billing/shipping address was in the States, several thousand miles away, but I had selected the “local warehouse pickup” option (the website wouldn’t let me submit the order without filling out a shipping address even though I was picking it up at the warehouse. I was accessing it on mobile, so that may have had something to do with it). They contacted me at once asking “Did you really mean to do that?” and when I explained that I was visiting in the area made a special note of it on my invoice and did an extra check of my box before they gave it to me “since you’ve come such a long way.” So three cheers for the sharpness of Maplelea customer service.
So, on to Léonie—
Right, now I’m going to address the face mold issue. I’ve read a lot of complaints from AG fans that Maplelea are “weird looking” and even “creepy”. After studying Maplelea dolls for awhile and becoming attached to them, I can say that I don’t think they’re weird or creepy, just different. It all depends on what you’re used to. It can throw you off if American Girl molds are the only thing you’ve ever known and that has been consciously or unconsciously assigned as your “default” doll face. But after awhile, I stopped noticing the differences and was able to enjoy the dolls on their own merit.
I will be honest and say that I struggled with the idea of owning Léonie for awhile. I loved her story, her characteristics, and her clothes (trust the French Canadian to have the best clothes) but her face! I just couldn’t get past it. I even decided to order a Maplelea Friend and a Léonie journal and items from her collection for awhile, but I took a closer look at the doll in the catalog, website, and any blog posts and pictures that I could find.
The main problem that I had with Léonie is that if it appears her wig is set too far back, it gives her a really tall forehead and it throws off her facial dimensions. This doesn’t do her mold any favors. However, I did see a few pictures of Léonie “in the wild” where her wig looks to be set lower on the head, and it looks fine.
If you order Léonie you can just adjust the wig yourself, I thought, and caught my own reflection in the mirror. If I didn’t have a little widow’s peak I’d look like a redhead Wednesday Addams, and there’s a reason my husband’s nom de plume on this blog is Forehead. When we were undergrads in the marching band he was one of the trombone section leaders–all of whom were in various stages of receding hairlines. They decided to embrace this and named themselves Team Forehead (even wearing t-shirts to rehearsal that read “I’m too sexy for my hair—that’s why there isn’t any there”).
So I really didn’t have any room to nix a doll based on having a big forehead (even if it’s so big it could technically be classified as a fivehead). Somebody’s got to stick up for the girls with big foreheads. So I ordered the doll.
And I have to say—in person, she is adorable! Her forehead doesn’t look too big for her face at all. I think that Léonie may just be one of those dolls that is really hard to photograph well. When I took an iPhone snap to send to a friend, her forehead seemed to look bigger than it actually was. Or were my eyes playing tricks on me? Is frontal cranium dysmorphia a real thing?
Her eyes are hazel (to my eyes, it’s on the brown side of hazel, but YMMV) and her wig is a neutral looking medium blonde with strands of strawberry red. I will say that my Léonie arrived with terrible shine marks on her nose, left index finger and left pinkie, but I was able to buff it out with extremely fine sandpaper (used on model aeroplanes). I was really surprised that there were marks on the limbs and face because the doll is tied down in her box quite securely and a plastic sheet is wrapped around the arms. Her wig is nice and smooth, and the wig cap isn’t easily noticeable. The wig is parted on Léonie’s left side. Wig fibers are nice, silky, shampoo commercial smooth. A nice neutral blush is on the cheeks, eye mechanisms work fine.
I think her “meet” outfit would be really nice for Maryellen—something about those cherries on the skirt reminds me of her. Her red underwear is attached to the skirt. The sweater has the safety “don’t snag the sweater” Velcro! Well done Maplelea! No snags, pulls or pills were on the sweater. Her meet outfit and the doll itself all had “generation” tags, marking my Léonie as the 16th Generation (2016).
Her red vinyl boots are easy to get on and off (remember, Maplelea feet are narrower than American Girl and they can’t share shoes).
So, I am thrilled that I ordered Leonie and am happy that now Quebec is represented in my collection. Like the other characters in the world of Maplelea, Léonie comes with her own bilingual journal, filled out in French and English from her point of view. She identifies her hair color as “honey brown”, discusses the story of her birth (On La Fête nationale du Québec, of course) her family history, her favorite activities, people she admires, and school groups she participates in (plays flute in the band, YEEEAAAAAHHHH!) She talks about playing hockey and welcoming visitors to their cabane à sucre. The journals really help flesh out details of the character’s story, and I’m glad it’s included.
Léonie outfits that I have bought so far include:
Crochet Coordinates: These are slated to be retired according to Maplelea’s website, so if you want these hurry up and order them. Outfit consists of:
Crochet sweater (with hand crocheted trim)
Long sleeved striped t shirt
Dark khaki colored skirt
Mustard yellow tights
…and a HANGAR! (Remember when, American Girl?)
There are no shoes included, however her Meet boots work just fine with this. The little crocheted flowers on the sweater are sewn down solidly. Upon inspecting the inside of the sweater, I saw that the edges are raw and have not been serged or finished with a zigzag seam, and I can see a notch cut when the sweater was made.
The labels in this outfit of mine say that it was made in 2012. The red crochet edging on the sweater look very well done, and I don’t see any frayed ends.
The striped t shirt also has safety Velcro and the edges on the inside are raw—but the bottom hem has been serged. The included tights are two toned in their striping. They feel thick and well made. The khaki skirt has had the edges finished with a serger, reinforced with a white band of fabric (I think some blend of cotton poly, but I could be wrong on this) and four colored lines of stitches around the hem of the skirt.
I have to say that I was gritting my teeth a bit when I saw the tights, but they went on the doll with absolutely no problem, fit perfectly (do not slide down her bum) and I didn’t feel like I was going to pull a run with one of my nails. Really well made tights, and I like the striping detail. I also don’t have to worry about the Velcro on the skirt snagging the tights either (thanks Maplelea!). Meet boots went on over the tights with no problems.
I have not been pleased with the quality of many AG outfits lately, so even with the non-finished edges of the sweater and shirt, this outfit is a solid A for me. It looks like something she would wear to school, and it’s NOT PINK AND GLITTERY. (in fact, Maplelea has a lot of options for “super cute age appropriate clothes that aren’t pink and glittery”.)
Her extra journal pages with this outfit discuss Expo 67 in Montreal.
My favorite of Léonie’s outfits is her heritage outfit, Pioneer Québécois. In her journal, she writes about dressing up in her pioneer outfit when her family is at their cabane à sucre (essentially a “sugar shack” where maple sap is reduced down to syrup). In this outfit, she can also skip down to Fort George in Ontario to thumb her nose at Caroline Abbott in Fort Niagara if you feel the need to recreate the War of 1812. (the creek behind my house may or may not be used as the Niagara River in future photo shoots.)
Tights are a soft white knit; no problems getting them on or having them stay there (I would be more careful with these tights than I would with the yellow ones in Crochet Coordinates—if you put the tights on first and then the rest of the outfit, the safety Velcro WILL pull on the tights if you don’t watch it). White bonnet with white bow detail on the back; also a chemise, kerchief, and apron, all white. Her boots are made of a black vinyl with a little kitten heel and a silver embroidered buckle on each one. I would have loved to have had a real metal buckle on the boots; but that may have made them harder to get on and this piece comes with a lot of pieces anyway. I might be interested in making a new apron, bonnet, chemise, and kerchief out of some thick white Kona cotton since the ones that came with the set are sort of thin, but that is really being picky on my part.
The skirt is a nice rich navy blue with woven rectangles of different colors throughout. The edges on the inside are serged. It’s a nice pattern that looks really period appropriate for me.
The jacket is a nice woven Wedgwood blue, and the safety Velcro is in the back so that little fingers don’t have to worry about doing up her laces. The white panel you see is sewn in, and the grommets are metal. I really love the way this outfit looks and is made.
Her kerchief has a snap so you don’t have to worry about tying it on—I recommend that you do the kerchief first and then tie on the bonnet, it’s easier that way. There’s plenty of white ribbon on the bonnet to make a bow easily. There’s also a snap on the neck ties of her apron, and her waist can be easily tied.
A quick note about the heels on those shoes—the only way I could get her to stand independently while wearing those shoes was if the surface was perfectly flat (like my kitchen table). For the photoshoots outside, I needed a nice tree to lean her against (I don’t have any doll stands, which is embarrassing for the amount of dolls I have.) I do think I will have a lot of fun sharing Caroline’s collection with Léonie…there may end up being a friendly rivalry between these two characters in my collection.
Maplelea is really working hard to make a uniquely Canadian product for Canadian girls, and it shows. The details in the clothes and accessories plus the tightly curated collections for each character remind me of Pleasant Company in certain ways. For those who want to purchase doll accessories where the proceeds go to benefit Canadian artisans and you don’t mind paying a premium for it, there is that option (Cowichan sweater, Saila’s Amauti and Pang hat) and if you need to be a bit more budget conscious with modern clothing, they’ve got options for that too (made in China).
Mapelea has an FAQ here. I like how the first question they address is where the products are made.
We take great pride in being a Canadian-based company. The development, design, sculpting, writing, illustration, shipping and customer service of Maplelea products is done in Canada. We’ve made special arrangements with a variety of Canadian suppliers to manufacture specific pieces from our collection, including craftspeople in Nunavut who make Saila’s Pang hat and Amazing Amauti, and the local manufacturers who make much of our girl-size clothing. Unfortunately, there are no vinyl doll factories in Canada, thus the assembly of our products is mainly done at highly qualified, socially responsible factories in China. The factories in China that assemble our dolls and accessories is highly skilled, very reliable, and socially responsible and ISO9001: 2000 certified. (ISO9001: 2000 is an internationally recognized certification of management quality.)
And another question on why you can only buy Maplelea online or over the phone:
No, Maplelea Girls dolls are not available in stores. Stores require a significant mark-up in order to cover their expenses. By eliminating the middleman and selling directly to consumers we are able to keep our prices as low as possible. Maplelea Girl products are only available from Maplelea. Orders can be placed on-line or by calling 1-800-668-4339. We also have occasional pop-up shops and meet-up events where our products are on display and available for sale. Sign up for our email newsletter, watch our blog, or follow us on facebook to be among the first to know about upcoming events.
I’ve really enjoyed starting collections for my Maplelea characters. After over 25 years of collecting American Girl, I pretty much have every single historical character (+ collection) that I want right now. I can’t really justify buying any more modern (truly me) dolls, and I no longer feel like I have to have every single item in a new release, or even in a curated collection, just because it is there. I still hang around for the new releases when they are made available (GOTY is the most notable example of this) but as far as long term collecting/building onto an established character I need something new–to go off in a new direction–and Maplelea has provided that. I will be really excited to continue to review their products here on The Mouse Lair.
This week I would like to get up my photos and post for Saila. The photos have all been taken and (I think) watermarked; I’ll just have to get the post written, composed, and ready to go. See you then!