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« Q&A: hand problem | Main | The (Hypothetical) Dangerous Book For Girls »



I'm surprised you didn't address the "boys" aspect - I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on whether this is problematic in your mind or not.

(Apparently, there is a "Glorious book for Girls" not quite yet published, though by different authors, that covers things like making tea and sewing...)

Lisa V

I ordered this book for Bert and Mason for Father's Day based on another review I read.


I HATE the fact that it's called a book for boys. Why wouldn't girls like it just as much? Why give it only to people expecting boys? Do we have to reinforce sexism in utero now?

(Sorry to be harsh...I just don't understand why it couldn't be called Dangerous Book for Kids or something. Awful. Awful. Awful.)


oooh feeling v. cranky that the excellent book is targeted to boys. I still catch myself saying "ooh isn't that loud noise scary!" to Maggie ... I would say "hey I'll bet someone is doing something cool!" (aka destructive or constructive) if she were a little boy. besides boys should know how to make tea & sew as well. got my brother through medical school!


I'm afraid I have to join the WTF chorus of "I call gender bullshit." And no, I don't think I'm going overboard using that sort of language.

How can I introduce this book into my girls-and-boys household? Someone please answer me that in a manner that doesn't brutally insult my intelligence.

Also explain why girls wouldn't need and WANT to know a single iota of the information presented therein.


Actually, I really don't care that it's for boys. I think it's fine to have things that are just for one sex or the other. (Full disclosure: I went to a women's college.) And there is no doubt that the stuff in the book is stuff boys like. My boys love the books, as did the men from ages 25-50 that I showed the book to. They've completely targeted the audience.

Maura, have you seen the book? I can't *imagine* having been interested in even a quarter of the stuff as a girl, and I can't think of any girls who would be interested in it now. Even my ass-kicking martial artist (she can break a concrete block with her head) triathelete lawyer friend wouldn't care about most of the stuff in the book.

I think a bigger problem is that the book for girls is about tea and sewing. Let's hope it also has some other, more interesting things for girls.


Second Jody. This reminds me of being in Girl Scouts, making Mother's Day crafts and having sleepovers, while the Boy Scouts got to go camping, in tents, in the woods, and practice knots, etc. (I always wanted a treehouse and never got one, either; does it show? I would've loved a book like this. How crummy that it's "for boys".)


I'm so torn. On the one hand, I think it's okay to target things to boys, in that I don't think a book called "XXX for boys" has to be banned or anything. Last I checked "Our bodies, our selves" was still geared towards women.

But I remain bitterly disappointed that they couldn't have marketed pretty much the same book to girls. It annoys me that it's a Penguin imprint because I love my Penguin Classics too much to boycott Penguin.

That there is going to be a glorious book for girls with elderflower tea or whatever is disturbing too though.


I recently bought this for my brother's 30th and agree that it's just the best book EVER. It's destined to be one of those worn loved books that your grandkids dust off with delight. Don't forget to write a little note in it and the date for nostalgia's sake.

Brooklyn Mama

Every single one of the things you mention (morse code, insects and spiders, how to tie knots) sound interesting to me - and things I bet my daughter would like to know too. Count me as one of the people disturbed by the fact that it is marketed just to boys.

a brooklyn mom

the problem wiht calling it for boys in my house is this -- my daughter would love all that stuff. she actually asked if we could build a treehouse in prospect park for her birthday party this year. (um. probably not.) but she (and her friends) would never consider a book that said "for boys" on it, even though they would love it. we (the parents) talk about how much we tried not to teach them gender-specifics in terms of activities, etc, but they get it from everywhere. and, at 5 & 6, it seems incredibly important to them. so, it's just a shame that she'd probably reject it outright.


When I was in Girl Scouts we built fires. Lots and lots of fires. And did codes and first aid and scavenger hunts and stuff like that. But then my mom was our leader. And she did the same stuff with my brother's Cub Scout troop later on.

I still don't see a problem with marketing it to boys. The problem I see is with the book for girls. I agree that treehouses and morse code and making crystals should go in the girl book. But table football, timers and tripwires, famous battles, the golden age of piracy, tanning a skin...I just don't see it. Hustling pool is something I'd put in the girl book.

Maybe some of it is the way it's written. It just all screams out BOY BOY BOY to me when I'm reading the chapters.


But table football, timers and tripwires, famous battles, the golden age of piracy, tanning a skin...I just don't see it.

??? Really.

My daughter would be/is interested in those things; and weaponry and tools and ballet. I'm so tired of gender stereotyping.


meant to say .. perhaps parents of girls are more acutely aware of how society seeks to limit their choices.


I have not seen the book. I agree with Moxie that my judgment of the boy book depends on what's in the book for girls. There's nothing inherently wrong with having a book for boys and a book for girls, in my view.

(Although -- that raises an interesting question about gender identity. What about a little boy who does not identify with or enjoy the stuff in the boy book? What about a little girl who does? What does that say about their gender identities? Hmmmm.)

Anyway, there's also nothing wrong with tea and sewing. I know lots of women into both. But it will really bum me out if all the adventure stuff is in the boy book and the girls are left only with the home-is-where-the-heart-is stuff. When I was a girl I soooooo wanted to be a superhero (Spiderman! Batman! Etc!) and have adventures. The boy book, and not the girl book, sounds like something I would have liked when I was little.

Except, as a Brooklyn Mom said, I would have been TOTALLY put off by the fact that the boy book is labelled for boys.

I wonder if this is something parents of girls are more attuned to (my husband I and I have an 18 month old girl), as LEB says. Or maybe it's hard to know what girls are interested in if your kids are all boys. Conversely, I will say I don't think my husband and I really have any clue what little boys are into, even though my husband was (of course) once a little boy.

I'll be interested to pick up the book Moxie. Maybe you could elaborate on what it is about the writing that screams "BOY BOY BOY"? I'm not sure I know what that means.

Thanks for recommending the book. I am eager to pick it up now.


I just checked out the Amazon interview with one of the authors. This quote gave me pause:

"I think we've become aware that the whole 'health and safety' overprotective culture isn't doing our sons any favors. Boys need to learn about risk. They need to fall off things occasionally, or--and this is the important bit--they'll take worse risks on their own. If we do away with challenging playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up with safer boys--we end up with them walking on train tracks. In the long run, it's not safe at all to keep our boys in the house with a Playstation. It's not good for their health or their safety.

You only have to push a boy on a swing to see how much enjoys the thrill of danger. It's hard-wired. Remove any opportunity to test his courage and they'll find ways to test themselves that will be seriously dangerous for everyone around them. I think of it like playing the lottery--someone has to say 'Look, you won't win--and your children won't be hurt. Relax. It won't be you.'"

I don't know. That sounds like something that would apply to girls too. He's definitely describing an ache for adventure that I had as a child (still do, really). And my daughter, just as an example, is much more of a thrill-seeker than, say, my nephew, who has always been a more cautious kid.

I'm not saying there are no gender differences. And of course the authors can write their book for whomever they want and call it whatever they want. But as a parent of a little girl this quote made me a little sad.

I think when we go to the playground today I'll push our girl extra high. :)

RookieMom Heather

I also don't care that it's marketed for boys -- then again I have boys. It's fantastic if girls are interested in this sort of stuff, but do they know about being called "tomboys"?

That's what I was called as a girl. No big whoop.


" But table football, timers and tripwires, famous battles, the golden age of piracy, tanning a skin...I just don't see it. "

Wow! I am just slightly livid. Why, why., why would you think this was "boy" stuff, in 2007?
Since I also went to a womens college, and we womens college grads often get the chance to meet each other (just happens!) I challenge any boy of your acquaintance to a "famous battles" debate with my junior daughter. Or a duel - she is reasonably skilled in fencing, shooting, archery and hand-to-hand combat.


I think y'all are making too big a deal about this. If a girl finds the stuff in the book interesting, ultimately, that's all that matters, and she will pick it up and read it. I read books that were geared to boys when I was a kid. Maybe it's the way I was raised, but all that mattered to me was that it was good and I was interested in it.

I think assuming a girl won't read a book because it says it is "for boys" is the greater problem.


Mother of two boys, reporting in. I don't care that "boy" stuff is marketed to boys and "girl" stuff is marketed to girls. I truly believe that there are definitely innate differences in the genders, and it doesn't bother me one bit. I don't view gender differences as a bad thing, unless it's coupled with discrimination, sexism, etc.

What really bothers me is McDonalds, etc. marketing to children. In my opinion, it's really harmful and messed up, and that's what people should be outraged over. My 2 year old has NEVER been in or eaten anything McDonalds, yet he knows what that big yellow M means from watching Sesame Street. Twisted. Apologize for getting off topic.

It would bother me if someone raised an eyebrow to any child playing/gravitating to "the wrong" kind of toy/activity/interest. For instance, I bought a doll with a pink baby carriage at a yardsale for $3. One son loves pushing the carriage; the other loves snuggling the doll. And that raises some eyebrows at the playground. Who cares? Seriously? Why would it matter that my 1 1/2 year old boy likes to play with a pink doll?


See, I think people are taking the "for boys" thing as a much more exclusive statement than it has to be. To me, all it says is that this is the kind of stuff that appeals to boys -- not that all boys like everything in it, or that no girls like any of this stuff. In fact, I think it's actually *more* gender-biased to assume that "for boys" means "NOT for girls." To me, it seems pretty self-evident that the stuff in this book would appeal to the average boy, completely independent of whether or not it would appeal to the average girl.

I myself would have been obsessed with this book as a kid; it all sounds like fascinating stuff even now. And I wouldn't have been put off by the title, either, although almost all the other girls I knew might have been.

But maybe that's because I usually played with my brother rather than with other girls. The two of us played with whatever we were into at the moment, which meant we both played with swords or construction sets or (more rarely) with dolls or stuffed animals or whatnot. In retrospect, I think my parents did a really good job of just letting us be who we were. There was never any suggestion that it wasn't ok for me as a girl to be interested in battles. It wasn't like they raised us as a gender-blind social experiment, either; I knew perfectly well that most girls weren't into naval battles and trench warfare, but I was also totally fine with that. Because I knew that "most" didn't equal "all" or "should."

And that's what makes me think it's possible to acknowledge that, hey, little boys will like this stuff (not ALL little boys, and they're not LESS boyish if they don't like it), without having it mean that girls never like this stuff (or worse, that if you like this you're not a REAL girl).

I think maybe some of my classmates and peers (and some of the previous posters?) got different, more destructive messages than I did, and perhaps that's why I was pretty much the only girl I knew who liked this kind of thing. And even I was much more quiet about liking "boy" things at school than at home.

It does seem monstrously unfair for a little girl to feel like she can't read this book because it's a "boy" book. I hate that that's true a lot of times. And I don't know exactly what the solution is. I do think that the pack mentality of little kids is a factor here...the "No girls allowed" and "Boys have cooties" doesn't usually start until you get a bunch of them together.

Anyways, I recommend the book Caddie Woodlawn to all of your daughters. And your sons too, for that matter. :)


I remember reading books that were meant for boys when I was a little girl, while knowing that boys wouldn't read things meant for girls. Unfortunately, that still seems to be true, as is the fact that more boys than girls are reluctant readers. If this book gets those boys to read, that is a good thing. But I hope the girls' book isn't just about tea parties!
The thing that makes me laugh is that I described this book to a group of women (I haven't seen the book yet but have read several rave reviews) and two of them immediately said they would buy it for their husbands. Apparently some men make it to adulthood without ever learning how to light a fire or write in code, so this book could be useful for the big boys too.


I trust that the books is super great and full of all sorts of adventurous stuff. And in the big scheme it is one book in a world filled with millions of books. And maybe this book can be read and understood differently in different parts of the American culture.

I live in Texas. I do know that my in-laws differentiate between boys and real boys. My rough and tumble nephew is referred to as--"He is all boy". I also know at some point in time my father-in-law has suggested that my husband isn't a real boy. My in-laws are not anomalous.

I'm concerned that this book serves as a gender litmus test. I think raising kids up is hard enough without also facing a culture that is arbitrarily measuring our kids for their fit within limited boxes. Of course this book doesn't do this on its own, but I do see its framing and presentation as more of the same.

Passing and failing these kinds of tests will be part of my son's life. I am a little sad for all of us who face this particular test and fail, as there are significant life consequences for failure.


Quick thought experiment:

1. Imagine if the book had exactly the same content, but it was called the Dangerous Book for Girls. (Let's say the marketing schitck is "girls should be exposed to adveture/risk/pirates/knots/blah blah blah" -- basically the line I quoted from the author, only with "girls" replaced for "boys".)

Would you buy that book for your daughter/other girl you know?

Would you buy that book for your son/other boy you know?

2. Now imaging the book is as it is (same content, called the Dangerous Book for Boys).

What would be in the Dangerous Book for Girls?

I'm still thinking about my answers.


Because I have all boys, I love this because I feel like most of the stuff I find "out there" is marketed to girls. From clothes to books to toys, I feel like I'm overwhelmed by "girl stuff". So to have something that can be just for them makes me happpy.


I have two boys, and I am also bothered by the book's title. I really want to raise my sons to believe that woman are just as smart and capable and interesting as men, and I would worry that giving them this book would send them the message that girls are too timid or boring to like stuff that they might enjoy. I haven't actually seen the book yet, but I read the Amazon description and it sounds like an awful lot of stuff that I found fascinating when I was a kid (I would have killed to have a tree house in my backyard.)

I just don't get why this couldn't just be called the Dangerous Book for Kids instead.


I agree with Julia!


I agree with Lola-- I do not think I was a particularly tomboyish child, but I climbed trees and tried to build a treehouse and all that. I am just not comfortable sending my son the message that these are "boy" things, because, frankly, they aren't. Peeing standing up is a boy thing, but I don't think you can make a whole book out of that.

While my son is still pretty young, I can't imagine worrying that there is not enough stuff out there marketed to him as he grows older. There are plenty of boy things out there, and better yet, plenty of things that I imagine he will like as a boy that the girls he knows will also like.


As a teacher of young children for the past 10 years (ages 8-12 mostly) and most recently an instructional coach in many classrooms k-5 I have to say there are not nearly enough books out there targeted to boys who do not enjoy reading. And it is more common in my experience to have to encourage boys to read than not. I'm not saying "all boys don't like reading"....I have had many MANY boys who couldn't put books down. I'm saying though that the majority of my struggling readers were boys, and the trick was to find books that caught their imagination and ignited a passion for reading. This sounds like a book I KNOW many of those former students would be dying to get their hands on. Slowly we are seeing more books that are written with these boys in mind....but even as recently as 10 years ago, the majority of books that were accessible to these readers were about puppies and ponies and bunnies, or much younger boys. These books were considered "babyish" and these boys had a hard time reading them in front of their peers. And because of that, the minutes they spent actually reading were fewer, and their struggle with reading continued.

I agree that there is a lot out there marketed to boys....but there really isn't much in the way of accessible yet age appropriate stuff for boys who are either struggling to read and/or are just not into reading. This book looks like it could be that bridge for may of them.

As for the fact that it might deter girls? I think it depends on the girl, and depends on the age. I can think of quite a few former female students who would have made it their personal mission to make sure everyone understood that they had as much right to read that book as any of the boys. And if I were a parent of a girl reluctant to read a "book about boys" (and I fully acknowledge that since I'm not I probably am NOT as sensitive to these things as you all are) I might pull a chapter out of the book that I thought my daughter might like, spark her interest, and THEN show her the book and see if she no longer cares that the title has the word "boys" in it.


Julie hit the nail right on the head. I used to teach middle school language arts. The boys in my classes, even the ones who were not reluctant readers, just would not pick up a book that had a female main character. Girls would read anything that caught their fancy. I taught the novel "The View from Saturday" (which is wonderful, btw) to my sixth graders, and I discovered after my first year teaching it that I had cover the covers with solid-colored contact paper to get the boys to read it beacause the cover from the publisher had a teacup on it (formal tea was a significant plot point, but didn't detract from the really gender-neutral storyline, with both male and female main characters). They had no trouble getting into it if they didn't have that visual cue.

Next time you visit your friendly neighborhood bookstore (or your slightly less friendly, regional, media superstore), take a look at the books that are marketed to 9-12 year olds (or even slightly older kids). The majority have rather "girly" covers. Now, we all know the old adage about book covers and judging, but kids, and most adults, frankly, do so anyway.

Something to think about.


I love Helen's "thought experiment."

I would absolutely buy a "Dangerous Book for Girls" - with this exact content - for my daughter. BUT, I would have a small issue with the word "Dangerous" in that case - only because it would suggest that these things are not for the "frail female mind." I'd brush that off, though, simply because the content is so dang cool.

I think I would hesitate to buy the "Dangerous Book for Girls" for the boys in my life, because I'd be uncertain whether they would reject a girlie item.


I do think the best solution would be to retitle this book, "The Dangerous Book for Children" - there's not one thing in it that I can't imagine many girls liking! I would have shared countless hours of adventure with this book and my little brother at my side.

And my thoughts on this issue of "most books" having girlie topics or covers or whatever .... that may or may not be true, but this book is different. It's a book that teaches things to *do* and explore, which makes it especially aggravating that it excludes girls in its title.


A big black marker, people, that's all that's needed to politically correct an unfortunate choice of title -- and wouldn't "A Dangerous Book" sound more intriguing to a child anyway? -- especially one with big black marker scribblings on it!?!
I agree with RHW, it doesn't say it's NOT for girls, and if you don't lend any weight to the title then it's likely your kids won't either. After they crack that book open, then the kid will decide if they want to keep on reading, boy or girl. Titles never stopped me from reading something I liked.
I plan on getting this book for my husband for Father's Day. I'm sure there are many dangerous things he will want to talk about with his daughter, and she'll know that boys and girls can share regardless of titles.


My husband came home with this book the other day - it's awesome. I actually think the "Dangerous" in the title is more about marketing, as is the "boys". I have a 2 year old boy, but I'd have no problem buying it for a girl too -
btw, I love sewing and tea (I actually asked for, and received, a sewing machine for my 10th birthday). But I was following in the footsteps of my grandfather, who could sew anything. I also went camping as a Girl Scout. It does seem like the "girls" book might be terrible - I hope it defies expectations.


Someone gave me this book and I actually thought about keeping it out of my son's way. Yes, I love all the things in it (and fwiw I would've wanted to do them too and so would my girlfriend...) but I hate hate hate that it is called 'dangerous' and 'for boys'. Reading Lawrence Cohen's chapter in Playful Parenting on gender & play might give us some ways to reinterpret it with kids. But I would so much rather show him stuff about all those things that does not say on it 'this is just for boys'. I don't care how much the gendered aspects of play are hardwired, I regard it as my parental duty to give my son the tools to challenge anything that limits his gender roles, and to challenge them for him if he can't/doesn't. Frankly, kids' culture is SO gender-limiting that we can't possibly tell how much of the gender differences in girls' and boys' interests are 'natural'.


Moxie, you've actually made me sit here at my computer stuttering in rage.

Girls aren't interested in tanning skins? Laura Ingalls Wilder, the doyenne of girly-girly books, spends CHAPTERS AND CHAPTERS on that stuff. Girls EAT IT UP.

Girls aren't interested in piracy? Guess the Pirates of the Caribbean must be a fluke. Timers and tripwires? Oh, well, I guess Nancy Drew was a flash in the pan.

The issue isn't the bellcurve of boys and girls interests here. The issue is the reinforcement of the patriarchy via the power of the written word. Can girls cross the boundary-lines of gender enforcement? Yes they can. Should we delight in the raising of the walls?


Anyone who thinks 8-12 year old girls DON'T pay attention the social messages about what it means to be a girl, and what they should do with their youthful enthusiasm for risk-taking and adventure and the strength of their war-making emotions IS NOT PAYING ATTENTION.


Couple of thoughts on this discussion:

1. Opinions seem to divide between parents of girls and parents of boys. I would love to hear from folks who have both.

2. Based on the reactions to the proposed Glorious Book for Girls, it seems like most of the commenters (including me) consider stuff that is girly to be limiting.

I am struck that no parent has written to say that his or her 4 year old girl spends the day in a tutu and refuses to take off her princess crown when she goes to sleep. I know these girls exist. I sometimes worry about how my husband and I will react if our girl is one of them (at 18 months she's too young to care right now). We are decidedly in the girly-stuff-is-limiting camp. I think that attitude will turn out to be unfair if our girl is into girly things.

3. Which raises the question, how and why do kids gravitate towards certain things? Who decides what's for boys and what's for girls?

Maybe some or a lot of this is hardwired. But I don't think we can underestimate the power of marketing. Advertising works. Kids are ill-equipped to think critcally about the messages they get about what it means to be male or female.

4. Boys may reject girly stuff because they are hardwired to do so. But they also get powerful messages from our culture that being into girly stuff is weak, pathetic, and un- un- un-cool.

In some cases, being associated with boy stuff will enhance a girl's power/strength/credibility. Does anyone call girls tomboys anymore?

But for boys, being associated with girl stuff -- or not embracing boy stuff -- is almost always a losing proposition.

To pick up on Paula and Jody's points, our culture (probably all cultures) communicates pretty strict gender norms to children. There are very serious social penalties for violating them, especially when the kids are the ones enforcing them.

5. What stuff is for boys and what stuff is for girls changes over time. For example, playing sports no longer seems to be considered a boy thing, at least in some (most?) parts of the country.


I have two boys, two girls.

Boys interests: Pirates, jewelry, building things, using dad's tools, reading, painting, horses, climbing things, their 'look' (hair, clothes, SHOES), cute fuzzy cats and jumpy energetic dogs, gardening, playing dressup (even the 9 year old), worms, physics, cooking, history, astronomy, sculpture, knitting, baby care (yes, they still have their baby dolls from toddlerhood, and won't give them up), swordsmanship, music, and any sport involving balls.

Girls interests... um, exactly the same. Except that one of the girls is a smidge less interested in clothing/dressup, and a bit more interested in climbing as high as absolutely possible, and leaping from said height. Everything else? Yeah, woo! The two of them (the girls) were absolutely clutching the wonderful wooden swords I found them (FINALLY, good wooden swords in a toddler-preschooler size!) on Saturday.

The tomboy thing IMHO is limiting. I was one, and it took having daughters to get used to being 'girly' (that is, 'pretty') as well. My boys are all boy, and so far, the girls seem to be all girl, too. The defining characteristic of that seems to end in their pants, though - beyond that, they're all THEM. When I had just the two boys, I thought that this was what boys were like - one's pretty cautious, the other a risk taker, but both love boots, and pirate jewelry, and creating things, and hitting things with sticks. And then I had girls, and found that I was fighting this idea that their love of pretty things was somehow DIFFERNT than the boys' love of pretty things, and the love of hitting things with sticks was maybe 'just because they have brothers'. Um. They keep kicking it into my head, though - R (one of the girls) adamantly insisting we bring worms into the house... B (one of the boys) racing out to his garden to see how his plants are doing... first G and B, then M and B fighting over ownership of B's baby doll... G insisting that anything he likes is by DEFAULT 'boy stuff', which left Barbies and pink clothing as the ONLY things that could be 'girl stuff'.

I'd rather the book be called 'A Dangerous Book', period (good rethink on that title). I do understand the marketing angle, and the fact that so many boys are taught to see their 'realm' as exclusively different from the 'girl world' (trust me that is TAUGHT, not innate! See: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2248/is_n126_v32/ai_19619406, and http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2294/is_2002_July/ai_94775612)

Yes, fact of life, parents teach gender roles to their kids (even when they don't think they're doing so!). But hello, the very same things the authors say about boys are critical for girls, too - hasn't anyone noticed that girls get into the same kinds of trouble now as was 'reserved' for boys when we were kids? (Though I got into a lot of that myself, I was considered an oddball.) Strangely, my best friend just Friday told me about having to switch girl-scout troupes to find one where ANYONE (girls or their moms) was interested in camping, making fires, tying knots, using knives... It is a very different world. And if one buys the premise that without a chance to take controlled risks, kids (ANY kids) will take uncontrolled risks, then the greater access to all those risks just leaves girls that much MORE at risk of stupid risk taking.

When I mentioned the girlscout troupe situation, my mom snorted, and said that it looks like we're right back in the victorian era, she can dust off her old 'proper comportment, tea, and things-to-make-while-sitting-down for perfect ladies' books, huh?

Tabletop football was one of my great passions as a kid, by the way. My sisters and I all played it. There's nothing like being able to bean your sister a good one when they aren't paying enough attention to duck, LOL!

I really like the contents list of the book. But I think I'll have to do the whole contact-paper thing on the cover. There are other books out there for girls that cover similar ground (there's one for gifted girls, I put it on my wish list), but they're a bit hard to find amongst all the 'how to make chocolates as sweet as you are' and 'lacy scrapbooking for girls' and 'you can bead your very own purse!' activity books. GAH.

IMHO, the book may be grand, but unless there's a similar 'girls need to be risk-takers' book coming out from them, I have an issue with the authors. Maybe not with the book itself (I don't mind my boys thinking they're boys, really I don't! I just mind them thinking that girls can't be just like them). I want a similar 'take a chance, skin a knee, try when you don't know if you'll succeed' spin in a book for girls.

As for what would be in my 'Dangerous Book for Girls'? Rock climbing. Power tools and electicity. Wilderness survival training. How to become an astronaut. How to booby-trap your brother's bedroom door. Stories of women who changed the world (hey, see, one 'gender-limited' item, LOL!). Logic puzzles and secret codes. How to build a rocket. Digging for fossils. Identifying animal tracks. Wood carving (I remember being the only girl in the wood carving classes I used to take as an early teen).

If these guys can be called upon to create or co-create a dangerous book for girls (really, how much would they need to change? Not a lot, IMHO.), I'm happy with the one for boys. But there's nothing wrong with it just being 'a dangerous book', period, IMHO.


Okay -- wow! I have an 8 y.o. son and a 6 y.o. daughter. I was thrilled to hear about this book -- my immediate reaction was like Julie's above who said this is such a great idea for reluctant boy readers. I ordered one for a friend's son last night and plan to get one for my son for his birthday. I also love the idea that it encourages them to take risks -- so rare these days.

That said, I would love to see a similar book for girls. I also did many of these things in the girl scouts and loved the experience. My daughter is expanding her interests (Finally) beyond princesses and American Girl dolls and starting to be very interested in animals and insects and nature. I think a dangerous book for her would be fantastic too.


Hey, Helen... I know a girl who was seriously all about the pretty dresses (even freaking out about socks not matching her dress when she was 3), who could work a room with the batting eyelashes and wrap boys and men from 6 to 90 around her finger by the time she was 5. Told her mom not to wear shorts EVER (even while gardening) because they made her look like a BOY (horror!). Her parents, entertainingly, were somewhat aghast. Quakers, egalitarian, etc., etc.

She's grown up, now, going to college. She definitely loves being a girl. Loves running full-tilt down hills. Loves athletics. Loves singing (she's going into vocal performance). Loves to cook, knows how to garden (though it doesn't seem to be a passion), can talk chemistry and physics, considers social action a basic responsibility, and has the most AMAZING taste in clothes. :shrug: The pretty dresses/princess thing? Grew up into just plain STYLE. Not obsession with style, just having it at all. Oh, and she's the one I mentioned recently who was always bruised up/scraped up, whose mother described her with pride as a risk taker ('never met a hill that wasn't worth running down full-tilt') when she was a kid. Was she super-girly-frilly? Yes. But neither her parents nor she seemed to define herself by that. It was her risk-taking that was remarked upon most by her parents (even though we did comment about the style thing, regularly...). And honestly, my sons are about as clothes-obsessed as she was. They just have a different range of options (thankfully, we're Scottish and fairly active in the dance community... it gives them a much snappier option on dressy occasions).

Fortunately for my kids, my grandfather was a noted gemologist (private/amateur collector, but very good at it); their grandfather was in the navy, and business, and has an English degree; their dad can build anything (architect with construction experience) but is the main housekeeper at home and doesn't distain poopy diaper changes (at least not any more than I do, LOL!). The male role models in our family run the range - navy submariner to rocket scientist to management consultant to architect to artist. The female, likewise - minister (with widely varies background including working with the first astronauts) to veterinary surgeon to programmer to financial genius to writer to ex-navy-intelligence. The men who can't cook (very few) admit it as a weakness but point out that they can iron and sew. The women who know near-nada about power tools (okay, mainly me) at least can use hand tools and can carve with a knife. Hopefully that provides the balance that allows them to pursue their own desires and interests in any direction whatsoever, regardless of their parts.


I think it's interesting that the biggest complaints are from girls who want to do the stuff in the book but are frustrated with the title.

As a "boy" (man/dad/whatever) I look at this and can't WAIT to give it to my sons. And I would definitely struggle with the right way to introduce it to a daughter (if I had one) and I would sure try. (Maybe as some sort of "These are all the things they don't want girls to know" to add to the mystique?)

But I think honestly that boys and girls ARE different and the way you communicate the excitement around stuff that is traditionally male-centric is not to make a bland, gender-less book about how tying knots is fun whether or not you have a penis.

I think there's something to be said for the positive aspects of gender roles. It seems like the attitude these days is that everything needs to be gender neutral, or at least giving all genders completely even marketing. Gender is, like it or not, part of identity in the society that we live in. Kids need to figure out what is stereotype, and how their own notion of gender fits in with the notion of gender around them. What about "The Dangerous Books for ambiguously gendered children"? :)

There's all sorts of literature about how wonderful and proud women should be to be women.. how you can be feminine and strong at the same time. But I tell you one thing I think that exists only in very small numbers: Literature/etc that tells boys how to be masculine and strong and still respectful and considerate without sounding like some moronic ideal from some adult who has forgotten what it's like to be a 7 year old kid. To this day I'll never forget the disgust I felt as a 7 year old kid when my mom gave me "Poetry for Boys" - even though as a 32-year old I have specific notions of what "good" poetry is and love going to spoken word shows.

Now clearly this book isn't looking to encourage boys to be compassionate, but it does give modern boys a sense of pride and identity when learning all this cool stuff (Though I'm assuming it doesn't teach you how to capture insects to frighten girls or something!) I think if we want to encourage girls to be into insects and electricity and all that, then we should acknowledge that boys and girls ARE different and that it's ok to market just to boys or just to girls sometimes. Girls can find a different kind of pride and identity when learning all the same things - but it will be different.

I am loving "The (Hypthetical) Dangerous book for Girls" - there is lots of overlap, but also plenty of stuff that is CLEARLY gender specific even though it doesn't say "girl" anywhere in it.

Mrs. Coulter

Something that bugs me about this book that I didn't see mentioned by any of the commenters (or maybe I just missed it), is that this stuff is hard on boys who don't meet the stereotype. It's not just little girls who suffer from traditional understanding of gender roles. This talk of "boys love adventure and can't sit still and hate to read" reinforces the notion that *real* boys hate to read and can't sit still. It suggests that reading is a girly pastime. It suggests that boys who aren't interested in climbing trees or playing with frogs are girly and therefore "less boy". Kids have different personalities that are independent of gender, even though they shaped by the expectations of those around them. I like the suggestion of "A Dangerous Book," because it doesn't suggest that only boys can like danger, or that boys are supposed to like danger (and thus boys who aren't interested in "danger" are somehow less boyish).


As a girl who was into both tutus and building forts in the woods, I can say that at one stage (age about 7-13 or so) this book would have repelled me ("but it's for Boooooys!!") and later it would have attracted me ("what exactly do they think girls shouldn't know"?)
I agree that most stuff out there is marketed to girls, but it is all girly-girl stuff. I DO NOT understand why this is not just called A Dangerous Book and include this stuff and some more traditionally girl stuff like sewing, cooking, cleaning science (what chemicals to use to clean what) etc.

I took ballet, mowed the grass, threw tea-parties for my dolls, caught tadpoles with my hands and was forever climbing a tree as a kid. I can change a tire and my oil and sew and knit. My brother did the same things, and in fact sewed a wardrobe for his teddy bear.
Why should these skills be targeted to one gender?

I have friends with daughters who are into "spy gear" and are always coming up with new ways to figure out "who done it".

In an age where gender expectations are highlighted EVERYWHERE you look, why is it okay praise this overt marketing of "this is how a boy should be" crap? If it were a book for girls all about minding maners, cooking, sewing, cleaning and finding a great guy we'd all be boycotting the publisher.

Although I do like Christina's idea with the black marker - that would make the book more interesting no matter the gender!!


It is important to note that while we're all growling about the cool dangerous things in the book that we'd like to be targetted to girls (too), the book does have a good bit of range - from literature to a section (if I read the Amazon entry right) on Grammar. Not to mention a section on understanding girls. So it isn't just one type of dangerous, the physical kind. It is also 'daring' in that it DOES assume that boys will like this stuff, that the poetry and the 'what makes girls tick' and the grammar are 'cool' skills for boys. For that range, I have no argument against it at all. I just want one for the rest of my kids, too.


Um - why are we, exactly, as mothers, letting the title of a book dictate what our daughters can do? Do we not have minds of our own? Do we not have our own voices - with which to answer the question "why is it for boys" with, "It's stuff boys like to do, but girls can do it too."

Me? tomboy, baby. The only girl at boy's birthday parties from age 8 +. Best tackle football player on the street. Love boys. Love "boy" stuff. Valedictorian. Highest math and science scores. Today, am college grad (x2) with 2 professional certifications, and a management position in a Fortune 500 company. In the South. My MOTHER never let anything limit me. I don't plan to let my daughter (or my son) be limited.


Anyone who thinks that there is a dearth of books for reluctant male readers hasn't spent much time in a good bookstore. (I'm not talking about a Borders, I'm talking about a store where the employees actually have a hand in selecting the stock.) I work in an independent children's bookstore and I could come up with forty titles off the top of my head without even scanning our shelves in every genre and for every age group. If I were standing in front of our shelves, I could double, triple, quadruple that. There's no lack of books for boys. The majority of books for 9-12 year olds do not have girly covers. Boys have piles and piles and piles of books to pick from to tempt them. They don't need a book that instructs them to send valentines anonymously because part of the fun for the girl is figuring out who your freaking secret admirer is.

The real dearth is in books for girls that take place in today's world where there isn't a dead parent, an eating disorder, depression, bullying, poverty or some other trauma yet isn't a total piece of trash. For girls, it's often either a dead parent book or Gossip Girl.


Remember when the Nintendo GameBoy came out and people were all in a tither b/c it was called a Game BOY, insinuating that girls did not play video games? Yeah, this debate is just as stupid.

I think weve pussified men enough. Let them have the book. Any one of them who reads it will be told by their mother to not do any of the "dangerous" stuff in it anyway.


Girls aren't interested in tanning skins? Laura Ingalls Wilder, the doyenne of girly-girly books, spends CHAPTERS AND CHAPTERS on that stuff. Girls EAT IT UP.

Yes, I thought of "my side of the Mountain", which was about a solitary boy, but I ate that one up. Lots of bush arts in that one. Go figure.

To Foster above, misogynist epithets such as "pussified" aren't welcome. Please take your gender insecurity elsewhere.


Another book that I think is great (maybe even better than Dangerous Book) is The Big Book of Boy Stuff by Bart King. I found this in B&N when I was helping my son look for a science fair project book. Thia book has all kinds of fun activities, and the author explains the science behind the experiements. It’s also got a section on girls, gross stuff like vomit and burping, and some funny jokes and wacky facts.

He also has a Big Book of Girl Stuff that is very cute, and a great book for middle-school girls who might need some reassurance.


Okay, how about "effectively mentally castrated"? You can handle chapters and chapters about skin tanning, but not the word pussy. Interesting.


Foster, so you get a sense of where we are coming from, using the term "pussified" in the way you are using it is like using "niggerified" or "chinkified".

And Helen, I read My Side of the Mountain like three times, and adored it.

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