Daring Book for Girls.
Unlike The Dangerous Book for Boys, the predecessor to Miriam Peskowitz and Andrea Buchanan’s Daring Book for Girls, I have no guinea pigs at home to work with. I have absolutely no evidence to bring to the table about actual girls enjoying this book. I, however, along with several of my coworkers, enjoyed making the cootie catchers quite a bit. Making the little paper fortune teller blasted me back to fifth grade so fast I could even remember where in the room my friend Iwalani sat playing with it between classes. We used them to find out which boy we were going to marry, using the boys in our class. This guaranteed that every fortune was a massive letdown, because, you know, they’re called “cootie catchers” for a good reason.
This time we used them to tell our fortunes, like “You will suffer a massive breakdown and change all the locks on the doors and windows when the rest of your family is out” and “you will spend most of next year fused to a toilet seat."
The cootie catcher: Still a good way to waste time.
The rest of the book maps out most of girl territory, such as making a lemonade stand and a tree swing, telling ghost stories, learning how to paint with watercolors, and whistling between two fingers. Peskowitz and Buchanan, while not shying away from the traditional feminine – you can learn how to sew and press flowers – are adamant about including lots of information that appeals to both genders, such as the rules for basketball, canoeing, and karate. The Daring Book for Girls is resolutely committed to female empowerment, sometimes boringly so, with their talk of stocks and bonds and Robert’s Rules of Order.
Still, you have to hand it to them for putting that stuff in there, anyway, knowing those pages will get skipped over in favor of learning how to spy on people and make friendship bracelets.
While very similar to its masculine predecessor, The Daring Book for Girls takes into consideration the fact that girls come from many different cultures. This puts The Dangerous Book for Boys to shame, because a more accurate title for the boys’ book would be The Dangerous Book for White Boys. While I understand Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, authors of the Dangerous Book, wanted the book to have an old-fashioned retro feel, Peskowitz and Buchanan prove that you don’t have to sacrifice the retro feel in order to make all girls feel included and important.
While the boys are busy learning bupkis about cultural diversity, the girls learn Spanish phrases and a section is devoted to “Daring Spanish girls,” Japanese T-shirt folding, how to tie a Sari, and double-dutch jump roping, a mainstay of African-American girlhood, is taught. The illustrations in the book feature girls of different races as well.
When the book for boys was first published in the U.S., a certain amount of criticism was lobbed at the book for segregating activities by gender. While I am a fan of the book for boys, as are my kids, this point was brought squarely home while looking through the girls’ version, which has a very small section on making stitches. Sewing, as we know, is an extremely feminine activity, so this womanly art isn’t mentioned in The Dangerous Book for Boys. Sewing is nothing that a boy will ever, ever need to know, because there will always be a woman around to mend his clothes and sew on buttons. Unless, of course, there isn’t. In February’s issue of Vanity Fair, a journalist reports from the front lines in Afghanistan, and interviews several of the soldiers in a unit that is constantly under fire. The first introduction to the soldiers features one of them sitting on a small seat. Guess what he is doing? Sewing! His pants have ripped open right around the fly, and there is no time to mail the pants home for Mom to take care of, so he’s sewing his clothes all by himself. While fighting in a war, that most traditional of feminine activities.
This is exactly why, to have a well-rounded childhood, both boys and girls need the books for both boys and girls. To have anything less would be doing them a disservice.
The Dangerous Book for Girls
By Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
January, 2008 by Harper Collins
Hardcover, 279 pp.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Daring Book for Girls.