Tuesday, November 27, 2007

And now for something completely different...

I'm going to confess that I have not yet read The Dangerous Book for Boys, even though it seemed like something I would probably enjoy. I haven't for 3 main reasons:
1) the ginormous size of my To Be Read pile
2)the fact that it was surrounded by hype ~ I am not a literary slob, but, having followed a few of the "must read/ bound to be a bestseller" trends, I find that I almost always disagree with popular opinion about what is good (Harry Potter is the only exception that leaps to mind, and I was on that bandwagon from just about the beginning. The DaVinci Code, on the other hand, is, in fact, almost entirely the reason for my skepticism towards letting the media steer me towards a particular book)
and 3)I just didn't like the title. The feminist in me instinctively balked a bit at a book whose title proclaimed it a boys-only zone.

But, I continued to hear good things about it - from people whose opinions are significantly more reliable than any list I've ever seen, and began to think that the only way to either confirm or rebut my initial reservations would be to read it myself. So, I added it to my ever-expanding TBR list, realizing that, given the Biblical proportions of that list, I'd get there eventually.

And then Mama Talk gave me the opportunity to review The Daring Book for Girls, the female counterpart whose publication was inevitable given the success of Dangerous. And I thought, "Why not?"

If it was as bad as it could be - all fluffy, filled with fripperies & frivolities, and ... pink, well then I'd have quite a review to write. And if it wasn't, then not only would I have a great review, I'd have a book to put on the keeper shelf, to add to Lil Girl's library, to recommend to my friends.

And, luckily, it is this second review that you're going to read.

Because, while it certainly doesn't - and shouldn't - ignore all things 'girly,' The Daring Book for Girls doesn't just cover those things - instead it strives to give its readers as a sense of perspective: that there is a world full of things to do, skills to learn, people to read about, choices to make, and all a girl has got to do is take the first step.

"Consider the Daring Book for Girls a book of possibilities and ideas for filling a day with adventure, imagination - and fun. The world is bigger than you can imagine, and its yours for exploring - if you dare." (Introduction)

It's not about boys or make-up or losing weight or sitting quietly, and I can't say how truly awesome that is. It's about making your own fun, your own adventures, your own choices. It's about learning from women who've dared, who've leapt, who've led - many of whom you, unfortunately, will never learn about in school. Curiosity, patience, wisdom, wit, adventure - that's the spirit this book is written in.

Andrea J. Buchanan & Miriam Peskowitz write in such an entertaining, engaging style that I can't imagine anybody who couldn't find something interesting between the covers. It's like an encyclopedia that's only filled with things you might actually want to know.

The illustrations, by Alexis Seabrook, are simple and purposeful, and there's -thankfully- more than one chart to help you follow along as you go.

There were more than a few topics that I wondered about their place in the lives of modern girls - Clapping games are still popular on schoolyards, but pegboards and willow whistles aren't exactly X-boxes or Barbie's Dream House... However, I don't necessarily consider this a drawback: There were a lot of things that I never did as a child, but maybe if I'd known how to, I would have. Daisy chains or a lemon powered clock would definitely have tempted a younger me. (Ok, I'm still tempted, but we've got no daisies, and I don't think I'm going to explain to Dad - who does the food shopping - why I need lemons.)

And they also include a lot of things I think should make a comeback - letter writing and tree swings, lemonade stands and female pirates.

It's also not just for 'little' girls -
I'm not ashamed to admit that I learned quite a few things on my first read through. For example, while I'm not interested in sports (and will never understand the obsession with them), I also don't like to not understand what people are talking about. I suppose I could've googled what a power forward was, but I didn't care that much. Now, I don't have to look it up.
I still can't change a tire, but that's more about the physics than a count against that entry. And I'm interested to see how the salary negotiating or public speaking guides measure up in real life.

And although I'm not as daring as I once was, this book provides more than a few adventures I'd still be willing to try out: Making a snowball that doesn't fall apart once it leaves your hand, tying a sari, whistling with two fingers (which, I swear I have been trying to learn how to do for years), finding ways to incorporate brobdingnagian into the conversation - or to call someone my flea in French.

I'm happy to be able to say that if you've got a little girl to holiday shop for, you should add this to your list. Honestly? Add it anyways - put it under your own tree, and learn how to supply a toolbox or what the heck a Chinook is. Go for it. Dare.

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