Full-disclosure: I worked with Andrea Buchanan for a couple years at Literary Mama, Miriam Peskowitz wrote the foreword for my book, and I think of them both as friends. I was one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of I hope not-too-annoying-people who sent them suggestions while they were writing The Daring Book for Girls this summer. I’d feed them if they came to San Francisco, and definitely buy them both a drink if we met up somewhere else. I’m a totally biased reviewer.
It seems many of the Daring Book for Girls readers have fallen into this book with a sigh of nostalgia. I didn’t have that reaction. This book is nothing like any books I had as a kid, unfortunately, and lists dozens of activities and facts that are entirely new to me. Peach Pit Rings? I can’t wait till next summer to try this with my sons! And today’s princesses? All –except Princess Anne– new names to me.
The Daring Book for Girls did not make me think nostalgically of my childhood because I’ve done so few of these activities – I counted around a dozen — and two of them (public speaking and salary negotiation) I’ve only done as an adult (I worked as a kid, sure, babysitting and such, but I think people said “I’ll pay you X” and I said, “OK!”) I had a great, fun childhood, don’t get me wrong, and I didn’t spend it sitting in front of the television, but I was not a daring girl. I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 19, and I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 20, or maybe 21 (the fact that I can’t remember when I got it tells you what a milestone it was in my life. I was not chomping at the bit to adventure independently).
An adventure for me was walking in the meadow outside my grandparent’s house at night, pretending to be Emily Bronte walking the moors – see, I wasn’t even adventurous enough to pretend to be Catherine; I pretended to be the writer! And so of course I feel kinship with Miriam Peskowitz and Andrea Buchanan, who write, “When we were young and bored, our parents told us, “Go read the dictionary!” We did, and look where it got us. One should never underestimate the pleasure to be found flipping through a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or an old science book.”
Indeed, and such is the pleasure of flipping through this book, full of facts and fun, instructions on games and crafts, social skills (boys! letter writing! Robert’s Rules of order!) and life skills, from Japanese t-shirt folding to changing a tire. I was more of a paper-making, doll outfit-sewing, campfire singing girl than a hideout-building, tree swinging, roller skating kind of girl, but both kinds of girls are reflected here, beautifully. All kinds of girls – and boys – are going to find things to do and learn in this book. It’s a completely inviting, approachable book, from its green and sparkly cover to its lovely line drawings; it’s sized right for curling up and reading in bed, but also sturdy enough to carry along on a girl’s adventures.
I wasn’t a daring girl, and I don’t have any girls in my house, but this book will keep my family good company in the years to come.