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For girls who dare to be adventurous

A counterpart to the boys' 'Dangerous' version, this book lauds the simpler pleasures of childhood.

December 26, 2007|Susan Reimer | Baltimore Sun

"The Dangerous Book for Boys," a nostalgic kind of Boy Scout manual, was such a sensation that it was bound to create a new publishing genre.

The book by brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden has sold more than 1.4 million copies and spawned all sorts of copycat books that celebrate the joys of a simpler, more rough-and-tumble boyhood.

The obvious question was, what about the girls?

Philadelphia authors Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz responded with "The Daring Book for Girls," a kind of post-feminist guide to a tomboy girlhood that's not afraid to answer the question, "How do you walk in high heels?"

With a 600,000 first printing, the publisher clearly expects it to be a sensation too. After all, girls read more books than boys. And mothers, who are the gatekeepers of the household in such matters, are going to make sure their daughters have a copy.

"We wanted to give girls something positive," said Peskowitz, a professor, author of "The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars" and the mother of two daughters.

"Something without pressure, and without icky pop culture influences and bad role models."

The book covers a range of topics, including how to play Hearts, how to play softball, how to stock a tool kit and how to tell a ghost story.

It has illustrations that show how to wrap a sari and how to tie your hair up with a pencil. There is a chapter on how to negotiate baby-sitting rates and lists of female pirates, explorers, inventors and rulers.

There is plenty of what might be considered boy stuff in "The Daring Book for Girls": how to build a clubhouse, a go-cart and a treehouse.

And there are stories about how hopscotch began as an ancient military drill in which girls were forbidden to participate.

Anyone who thought that girls should be included in "The Dangerous Book for Boys" -- "The Dangerous Book for Kids," perhaps? -- will be satisfied with this new book.

But anyone who thought it was dumb to have to write stuff like this down will have the same objection.

It is considered smart to ridicule these books and the idea that parents need reference material in order to teach their children how to play.

I don't consider either book a shot across the bow in the culture wars, as some have suggested. If you think it is unwise to promote daisy-chain-making in our daughters, or if you think only boys would be interested in the history of guns, take it outside.

It isn't fair to the kids to drag them into the unresolved issues between the male and female grown-ups. Child's play can't be classified as "his" or "hers," or even "both."

These books are like finding an old trunk in the attic on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Author Buchanan, a classically trained pianist who has an 8-year-old daughter, talks about recording the things our mothers and grandmothers used to. The Iggulden brothers also said their goal was to catalog the things that were fun to do when they were boys.

Let's keep it simple -- something both books would applaud. This is nostalgia, not sexual politics. It isn't even intrusive parenting.

"The Daring Book for Girls," like the book it graciously credits, is a collection of neat stuff we used to know.

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