Cylla Von Tiedemann
Madison Davenport, left, Abigail Breslin and Brieanne Jansen are Depression-era friends in the film "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl."

Like a lot of 12-year-olds, she might want to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

"I love animals, and I've had dogs, cats, a turtle," she says. "And it's weird, but I collect elephants. All kinds. Not the living kind. Not yet."

She just joined the Girl Scouts, and she says "Oh my gosh!" a lot. Especially about "American Idol" or the iPod she just lost.

Her favorite books: "'Anne of Green Gables.' Oh, and the Max Quick (fantasy) books. I'm on the last one of those, so I'm kind've sad about that."

She has the date of her next Disney World visit emblazoned on her calendar.

"December! We're coming down for the candlelight ceremony during the holidays!"

It's easy to forget when somebody already has copped her first Oscar nomination that we're dealing with a little girl. But Abigail Breslin is all girl — or, to borrow from the title of her new movie, all "American Girl."

The imp who was the title character in "Little Miss Sunshine," which earned her an Oscar nod a couple of years back, has something special, a "guilelessness," noted a Hollywood Reporter reviewer in praising "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," Breslin's new movie. She was the guileless center of a pack of feuding, struggling, unhappy adults in "Sunshine." She was perfectly believable as a desert island girl who would, of course, e-mail her favorite adventure novelist for help in the spring's sleeper hit, "Nim's Island." And as a Depression-era child who longs to write for a newspaper, she brings that pluck to bear in "Kit Kittredge," too.

It was, she admits, the first movie she had to do "homework" for.

"I didn't know much of anything about the Great Depression," Breslin says. "But my grandmother grew up during that, and she told me all these things about bread lines, how hard things were. And I learned so much more about it when I made this movie. All those people struggling to just have enough to eat, it's hard to believe.

"The message of our film is about family and friends pulling together in hard times, which is what a lot of people did back then."

Breslin might have been drawn to the fact that the film is a tie-in to the popular "American Girl" dolls and books about girls from different eras in American history. She admits that she "liked the idea that there was a monkey in it." But the historical setting threw her, just a bit. And we're not talking about "wearing (1930s) sweater outfits in the heat" because the scene she was playing was supposed to be in the winter.

"Believe it or not, the thing that threw me the most was using a typewriter. I had to use one in a couple of scenes, so I was sitting down to get ready to use it, and I ask, 'Where's the screen?'

'There is no screen.'

'Well, how d'ya delete stuff, then?'

'You don't.'"

Breslin and her new film are winning praise for their warmth, their heart and their innocence. Talking to her, one is reminded of how Alan Arkin, her Oscar-winning "Sunshine" co-star, told one and all that he thought she should step away from the movies, from the attention, "before it spoils her." He was as enchanted by Breslin's natural charm as everybody else.

But the work — she was in "The Ultimate Gift," "Mostly Martha" and "Definitely, Maybe," too — doesn't seem to have robbed the "girl" from this "American Girl."

"I love those dolls, I really like their different stories, how they all grew up in different time periods. But they're dolls, so I also love that you can dress them up, take them to the hair salon, pick out furniture, re-arrange the furniture, all that stuff."

She's shooting a new film, "My Sister's Keeper," with Cameron Diaz, her "Kit Kittredge" co-star Joan Cusack, Jason Patric and Alec Baldwin. And she's got her eye on that calendar, waiting for that next trip to Disney World. She'll be narrator of for one night of the park's annual candlelight Christmas processional. That'll be her duty as a visiting movie star.

But the 12-year-old girl? She has other priorities.

"Expedition Everest I rode 13 times, the last time I was there," Breslin gushes. "And Rock'n Roller Coaster I rode, I think, eight times! So I've gotta break my record!"