Good, old-fashioned fun is pretty hard to beat, even with all the technology today’s kids have at their fingertips. Looking back at my childhood, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading, but I did come away from the books long enough to create some awesome memories: making bubble blowing solution from hibiscus; sailing paper boats in the gutter; chasing shadows under the street lamp; and drawing chalk pictures on the pavement.
Nostalgia kicked in when I first saw the hardcover volumes of The Dangerous Book for Boys by Gonn and Hal Iggunen and The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz a couple of years ago at the bookstores. I got The Daring Book for Girls when I swapped a book internationally, and just a few weeks ago, I got The Dangerous Book for Boys in the bargain pile at the Manila International Book Fair.
The two books are the modern kid’s guide to good, old-fashioned fun.
“In this age of video games and cell phones, there must still be a place for knots, tree houses, and stories of incredible courage. The one thing we always say about childhood is that we seemed to have more time back then. This book will help you recapture those Sunday afternoons and long summers — because they’re still long if you know how to look at them,” Conn and Hal Iggulden write in their introduction.
Buchanan and Peskowitz write their introduction in the same vein: “Girls today are girls ot the twenty-first century, with email accounts, digital cable, iPods, and complex video games. Their childhood is in many ways much cooler than ours… In other ways though, girlhood today has become high-pressured and competitive, and girls are inducted into grownup-hood sooner… 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 it’s yours for exploring — if you dare.”
Each book is chock full of information and activities, all presented with vintage-style illustrations.
The boys’ book contains, among other things, sections on creating paper airplanes, the rules of soccer, understanding grammar, famous historical battles, questions about the world, pen and paper games, Shakespeare, tricks to teach your dog, wrapping a package in brown paper and spring, Latin phrases every boy should know, how to play poker, the Ten Commandments, hunting and cooking a rabbit, growing sunflowers, and girls (!).
Meanwhile, the girls’ book has sections on palm reading, spanish terms of endearment, how to whistle with two fingers, double dutch jump rope, queens of the ancient world, cartwheels, karate moves, the periodic table of elements, pirates, women inventors and scientists, building a campfire, clubhouses and forts, how to a spy, climbing, modern women leaders, handclap games, how to negotiate a salary, greek and latin root words, Japanese t-shirt folding, and boys (!).
The best thing about these books is a reading list at the end of each book. Both list some common titles, including Harry Potter.
For the boys, the list includes Roald Dahl, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Fungus the Boogeyman, Charlotte’s Web, The James Bond books, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Ender’s Game, The Lord of the Rings, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Discworld novels, The Phantom Tollbooth, Lord of the Flies, Sherlock Holmes, and Brave New World.
For the girls, the list includes A Wrinkle in Time, A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, the Ramona series, Little Women, Alice in Wonderland, All of A Kind Family, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Little Prince, Mary Poppins, Pride and Prejudice, Winnie the Pooh, His Dark Materials, The Giver, The Dark is Rising sequence, Black Beauty, Bulfinch’s Mythology, and Nancy Drew.
What I like most about these books is that the girls aren’t shrinking violets and the boys aren’t raucous hooligans and the books contain a healthy balance of interests for a wide range of personalities. Plus, the boys can swap books with the girls and they’ll all pretty much still enjoy the contents of the book. As everyone who reads these books are bound to exclaim, I wish I had these books when I was a kid!
If you’re looking for Christmas gift ideas, these books will make a wonderful addition to any kid’s (even a big kid’s) bookshelves!
The Dangerous Book for Boys and The Daring Book for Girls, both 5/5 stars
Books #130-131 for 2010