I've decided to re-read/read the American Girl series. At the age of 25, I'm sure it's been more than a decade since I've read any of them. I loved these books so much as a kid and Kaya is one of the dolls that I own.
I didn't like this book as much as I did all those years ago, mostly because of how abrupt the ending was. Speaking Rain almost drowns, but is saved by Kaya and the book almost immediately ends. I just wanted to see Speaking Rain again (even briefly) to be assured she's okay. There's no closure; it doesn't feel like an ending.
I also had a problem with Kaya's punishment. I understand the logic behind switching all of the children; I'm not complaining about that. I don't like the nickname that the whipping woman gives to Kaya. She was practically telling the children to bully Kaya. I do like the way that Kaya is taught to handle the nickname (i.e. to rise above it and become a person who no longer deserves the comparison), but it didn't sit right with me that the adults were totally fine with the cruel things the children were saying to Kaya. Kaya gets one good lesson out of it, but all of the children, including Kaya, are learning that it's okay to be so mean-spirited to each other.
On the other hand, I love how educational these books are, how the culture is exhibited throughout the story and then is shown in a more concentrated form at the end. And the illustrations have always been a high point for me. Especially the gorgeous horse Steps High. <3