Boy Story creators want to give boys a doll of their own

When Kristen Johnson was pregnant with her second son, she went hunting for a boy doll for her older son to play with and nurture.

But boy dolls are hard to come by — especially boy dolls that aren’t plush, glorified pillows or muscle-bound, weapon-wielding warriors.

“I wanted a doll like him, especially to help learn about being a big brother,” Johnson told me. “My search went from disappointed to frantic to angry as I realized that my options were to buy a girl doll or buy a baby doll. I ended up finding a boy doll, but it was so feminine that my son kept calling him a girl, and it set me back $125.”

Shortly after her second son was born, Johnson, 33, quit her job as a senior associate at her law firm’s Qatar office and turned her attention to launching Boy Story, a line of 18-inch dolls that come in a variety of skin colors and are accompanied by their own adventure storybooks.

They’re being called the American Girl doll for boys.

Johnson and her sister, Katie Jarvis, 31, designed the dolls and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their production. They quickly surpassed their $20,000 goal, which means they’ll be placing orders and expect to deliver the dolls to customers in September. They’ve also secured deals with several retailers — mostly boutiques at this point — to carry the dolls by fall.

“Our goal is to diversify the doll market as it currently stands,” Johnson said. “We wanted to round out what our kids have to choose from for their imaginative play.”

Jarvis, who has a background in design, said it was critical that the dolls, aimed at kids ages 3-8, have individual ball joints in their arms and legs, which helps them function like poseable action figures, even though they’re sized more like huggable, tote-able playmates.

The dolls, which will retail at $99, are also washable and have molded hair, which means they can be dragged through mud puddles or buried in sandboxes and be no worse for the wear (giving them an edge, in my mind, over American Girl dolls).

“As a mom of two boys, I’m constantly trying to teach my kids about diversity and acceptance,” Johnson said. “For me, Boy Story is about offering a really fun, cool, back-to-basics toy that kids can play with and imagine with, that also encourages nurturing and empathy.”

Boy Story calls to mind the Wonder Crew line of dolls I wrote about last year, which skew slightly younger, but also aim to give boys a doll they can relate to.

Together, maybe they can move the needle on the toy market as we know it.