How Dangerous? The Dangerous Book for Boys
Best seller in the U.K. and rising fast on the U. S. charts, The Dangerous Book for Boys has obviously filled a niche in a market that no one else knew was there! The book is marketed as an alternative to excessive parental overprotection, particularly for boys, who are said to be drawn to risk and danger like moths to the flame!
In actuality, the book doesn't feature a lot in the way of risky business. It covers well such time-honored childhood staples as sections on knot-tying, codes and ciphers, building tree houses, making paper airplanes, reading semaphore symbols, using sign language, fishing and trapping, and various sports. In my school library, I had multiple books on each of these subjects (not to mention Indian sign language and symbols, flying model rockets, building forts, rifles and hunting, animal tracks, hobo symbols, electric motors, camping and rock climbing, you name it!) and they were wildly popular, so the material included in The Dangerous Book for Boys has never really gone away.
What this title has going for it is an idea whose time has come (conveniently bound under one cover) and a tantalizing title. It also has great diagrams, maps, drawings, and lively accounts of historical heroic deeds. Every library and home with kids really should have a copy. I've long been of the opinion that (when they're not reading) kids need to go outside and do stuff, and I'm glad that dads are acting on that premise with the help of this book.
Unfortunately, when you look for similar books for girls, there is a paucity of titles on outdoor activities. There are gazillions of books on arts and crafts, guides to decorating your room, managing your relationships or your money, applying makeup, and coordinating your ensemble, but except for a few compendiums written early in the last century, there is not much on unorganized sports and games for girls.
One intriguing title that offers an incentive for vigorous physical activities is The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop by Kyra Gaunt. Ethnomusicologist Gaunt describes and traces the historical roots of outdoor activities such as jump rope games and songs, hand-clapping games, cheer leading chants, and other activities for girls. You don't have to be African-American to jump double-Dutch or clap out Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, and it's great to have these vigorous girl games documented for posterity.
One more general title which offers some physical activities aimed at girls is Laura Cornell's Here's How (American Girl Library), which shows girls how to throw a football and do the hula, as well as more sedate activities like braiding hair and doing magic tricks. The market is wide open for a Dangerous Book for Girls to get them up and out there, or (see my post of March 11, 2008) just give them a copy of Swallows and Amazons to show "girls just want to have fun."