Monday, November 5

The Daring Book for Girls

Andrea J. Buchanan &
Miriam Peskowitz
illustrated by Alexis Seabrush
Collins / HarperCollins 2007

The girls had to wait a while but it's finally here. With a clear debt paid up front to the creators of The Dangerous Book for Boys, here we have a collection of things to know and do for girls to help them be as equally rounded in their informal educations as the boys.

I've already seen some backlash against this book in places where, sadly, brains tend not to be engaged. The crux is this: boys got a book that was "dangerous" while girls only get "daring," implying in this that while boys are risk-takers girls are merely flirting with the edges of what is considered taboo. The reality is that a boy is more likely to pick up a book with the word dangerous on its cover and read it and feel subversive for the act of actually reading poetry and learning how to make a secret ink out of urine. And girls? They like to play Truth or Dare and don't somehow feel less subversive than if the game were entitled Truth or Danger. In fact what girls consider daring would, to a boy, be considered dangerous. For adults to get caught up in the wording of the title, well, just shows how little they understand what appeals to children.

Another concern was that there should be an omnibus book for KIDS as opposed to ones specific for each gender. Wrong! You may as well call something like that The Big Bright, Shiny Book of Ever So Much FUN! for Lucky Little Girls and Boys! and watch that book collect dust on every shelf it touches. Boys and girls like their distinctions, they revel in them, and when they want some dirt on what the other is like they want to be able to find it in one convenient location. Just because it says "for boys" or "for girls" doesn't mean the other can't appreciate it. In fact, both The Daring... and The Dangerous... book features a section on the opposite sex which would appeal to the curiosity of both. Manuals for scoping out the enemy, always good reading.

A paltry sampling from the table of contents:
  • Rules for Basketball
  • Lemon powered clock
  • Palm reading
  • Every girl's toolbox
  • 14 games of tag
  • 5 karate moves
  • Daring Spanish girls
  • Joan of Arc
  • Four square
  • Pirates (female)
  • How to tie a Sari
  • Building a campfire
  • Playing hearts and gin
  • Clubhouses and forts
  • Putting up your hair with a pencil
  • How to be a spy
  • How to paddle a canoe
  • Cleopatra
  • Math tricks
  • Boys
  • Public speaking
  • Hiking
  • Telling ghost stories
  • The Periodic Table of elements
  • and so on
Definitely some girly things there, but plenty of things a boy could get into, just as girls could get into some of the boys things. Girly or boyish, these books are handsome editions that don't deserve the crappy knock-offs and gag books that have sprouted up around them.

These two books combined would make an excellent edition to any family library. Perfect for casual grazing, rainy days, bored afternoons and, with the proper adult attitudes, a more complete education. Those who fret over the words in the title or some of the contents would do best to get out of the way of their children and have them prove that you raised them right by letting them explore what's on offer.

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