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The 10-year-old's reading


  • MoxieTopics
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« Book Review: The Dangerous Book For Boys | Main | Dangerous books, continued »



Moxie, I haven't read the comments in the other thread yet, but I would want my girls to LEARN EVERY SINGLE DAMN GAME AND SKILL IN THE OTHER BOOK. Not least because THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT TO LEARN TOO.

[Yes, this whole line of thought really does piss me off just that much. Girls DON'T want to build a treehouse, learn the rules for marbles, know how to put new line on their fishing line and tie knots? WHO are these girls, and where do they live? No where in our neighborhood.]

Mama A

26. How to use a lawn mower, chain saw and power tools, and other heavy things

27. How to throw the ball really hard in dodgeball

28. How to keep your emotions in check during important meetings/events so you will always be taken seriously

29. How to climb a rope


I think everyone should know how to drive a stick shift car! :-)

Build a fire.

What to do to be taken seriously in the professional world.


People need to relax about the whole Boy Girl thing. I am tired of everything having to be so damn neutral.

Anyway -
-How to whistle for a cab.
-How to grill the perfect steak.
-How to stand up for yourself and NOT be called a bitch.


Moxie, I think you've misinterpretted my point. One of my daughters _does_ all that dangerous stuff (and the other, sure 'nough does not - but I wouldn't mess with her either - for a girlie-girl she's pretty good at take downs...) and she doesn't need encouragement to do dangerous things.... but she does need to not have it shoved down her throat that these dangerous things are _boy_ things and not _girl_ things that is, that there is something wrong with her or that she is infringing on territory where she is not welcome or has no rights. My career life was destroyed or at least totally derailed by that boys club mentality, so it means a great deal to me that propping up this kind of system verbally is challenged.

Are there innate differences between boys and girls; sure. If my daughters try to pee standing up, they'll surely get their jeans wet. They know and have accepted this ;-) Does that mean we should tell them studying military history is for boys? Nah, I don't think so. I think we just need to fight to have sit down terlets where military history is taught.


I'd love to know what the 20 classic books to read are! Do share!


26. how to use a socket set and ratcheting screwdriver

27. how to intall a ceiling fan

28. how to be the most captivating person at the party

29. how to be a good friend to a girl, how to be a good friend to a boy and the important differences to each

PS: I want your top 20 book list too!!


I wanna know which women's college it was. :) I'm a Smith alumna myself.

I don't think anyone (here) is saying that girls who want to do these "dangerous" things should be discouraged from doing them. Quite the opposite, in fact.

However, encouraging boys to read is an entirely different matter. Most everything I've read suggests that boys, especially through elementary school, are not being taught in situations that are best suited to their developmental needs or probable interests -- I don't see anything wrong with marketing reading to them in a way that seems more likely to succeed.

And for those boys who aren't interested in the dangerous, but who turn out to have more verbal, or artistic, or musical, or "feminine" interests, I think most readers here probably support encouraging and supporting those boys as individuals as well.


Moxie, would your son not like TDBFB if the content was exactly the same, but the name was The Dangerous Book for Girls?

If he would not like it beacause it's "For Girls," maybe that's developmental. I think I've read somewhere that boys and girls put great importance on gender differences at certain points as they grow up.

Do you think it also might be because your son knows that to be associated with girl things would probably not be to his advantage, might invite ridicule? Maybe that's not the case. But as boys get older I think they definitely get that message.

Obviously a lot of what's in your list for TDBFG are things boys would love. Maybe not walking in heels. (Then again, I am anti-heel myself.)

Are the 20 classic books girls should read different than those boys should read? I join the chorus of please post your list!

Thanks for bringing this stuff up. It's given me a lot to think about (and a lot to discuss with my husband.)


I agree with the stuff on the list so far (some of it emphatically). Here are my additions (and I want both my step son and my daughter to be able to do these as part of growing up to be "big and strong"):

1. Be able to do a ratio problem in order to comparison shop effectively. Even if you have to use the calculator function on the cell phone to do the actual math, he/she should be able to set up the problem.

2. Not be afraid to try something you want to do - like that crazy bungee thing they have at the mall.

3. Throw a ball so it makes it from the outfield to short stop. (turns out you use more than just your arm.)

4. Shoot a free throw (didn't know til I was an adult that you use your legs for this.)

5. Fix a button.

6. Know how to use the dishwasher and washing machine.


I just wanted to put in a recommendation for a book that's already out there

The U.S. Army Survival Manual: FM 21-76

Seriously, my dad got this for us (my brother and me (I'm a girl)) when we were about 10, and we absolutely loved it. It has all sorts of fascinating info (well, we thought it was fascinating), including how to build a snare, make a wooden spear, and field-dress a deer. And it doesn't have any "exclusionary" gender language on the front cover (sigh). It's the civilian version, so more about wilderness survival than escape & evasion.

This one also looks terrific:

SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea

They're both available at Amazon and elsewhere.


A few I'd add to the list:

1) Understand how percentages work.
2) Learn simple statistics so that you can read graphs and charts and understand the significance (or lack thereof) of scientific studies.
3) Basic nutrition to grow up strong and healthy instead of fragile and self-obsessed.
4) How to know when to ignore someone.
5) How to start a campfire with a single match.


Wow, I like everybody's contributions--I'd add Cool Cooking and how to get other people to do the dishes...and I'll start the book list:

Harriet the Spy
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons
The Perilous Gard
Charlotte Sometimes
The Diary of Anne Frank
Nancy Drew (the old ones!)

Not so say girls should only read books about girls, but these were tops of the list when a literary friend and I had a year-long conversation about the books that made us understand you could be feminine and smart at the same time.

I particularly recommend Seven Daughters and Seven Sons if you haven't read it, as an antidote to all the bad sides of princess stories. Summary:

Two brothers, one has seven daughters and one has seven sons. Obviously the sons guy is rich and prestigious, the daughters guy poor and miserable. He tries to marry his favorite daughter to one of her cousins, but after being rejected has no choice but to send her out to seek her fortune dressed as a man. Off she goes, establishes a successful business, makes her family rich, and befriends the local prince while still in disguise. His other friends suspect something and finally she flees to avoid being found out. On her way home, she finds and humiliates all the cousins who rejected her when her father was poor. The prince pursues her across half the world because she is a woman he can talk to and who can be his true friend. ...eventually they live happily ever after.


Hm. I would take issue with baking a flaky piecrust. When in a successful personal or professional life will that be a must-have skill? (I am a very good baker and cannot manage a decent piecrust, I might add. And I am very grateful that I have never had to. I also dislike pie). And I would change "Personal space on the subway" to ""basic self-defense" anywhere. I have never lived in a city where I have had access to a subway regularly (and many people never even visit such places), but having basic self-defense skills has made me feel much more confident in potentially sticky situations and allowed me to have a much more free life in urban areas I have lived. Also, maintaining control of the story during a press conference is a skill 90 percent of us are unlikely to need. However, maybe "Staying cool and to the point during a conflict"? That' s a personal and professional skill I am still working on, and the lack thereof caused me problems when I was younger. Basicaly, what Mama A said.

I love the "hustling pool/darts/poker." Being good at "boy things" (or things they think are boy things) is always a thrill. And I have found guys, at least the good ones, find that REALLY attractive, too :-). My friend is marrying a woman he met when she knocked him over and played circles around him when they were playing hockey against each other in their league! And I love all of the commenter's suggestions as well.

And I agree that we can have things that are "just for boys" that don't take away from girls. So much attention goes to empowering girls, which is important, that little goes to empowering boys to be who they are as well. And that doesn't mean reinforcing sterotypes, but having things that appeal to their basic boy nature. My daughter is already quite a tomboy at not even 2.5--aggressive, bossy, never stops moving and loves physical play. My nephew is sensitive, contemplative and loves to read--and yet I'm thinking of getting him this book for his birthday because I think he'd love something that was For Boys, without getting the idea that Maggie can't do any of the things contained within. It's not like the subtitle is "because girls are wusses."


You know, maybe I'm just enlightened about boys... or maybe something else, but I don't see so much of the 'boys must stop being boys to be accepted' thing around here. But maybe that's my family kicking in again... we LIKE boys. We also like girls.

I'd definitely include ironing, cooking a chicken you can serve to guests, and baking a dessert (might not be flaky pie crust - I like pie, and I can make a flaky pie crust, but they're just not as recognized as a skill in general, so fewer points gained for doing so... maybe 'chocolate bomb' (chocolate mouse or ice cream inside a bowl of chocolate brownie turned out on whipped cream with chocolate sauce drizzled over... mmmmm.....).

How to tip. Definitely how to tip (waitstaff, bellhop, etc.).

How to do a cannonball (into water).

How to identify poison ivy.

How to lock stitch a seam by hand.

How to deliver a compliment (and accept one).

How to apologize (and when) without becoming a door mat.


Do we really think that boys would not want to read this book if it were called, simply, "The DANGEROUS BOOK!" or "The Dangerous book for Kids?"

I can assure you that my son would be poring over it without the BOYS in the title. DANGEROUS is pretty much enough to get him going.

And without the BOYS in the title, my daughter would be able to get into it (assuming she could read, which at 3.5 she's not) without the very act of reading it becoming a gender-transgressive act?

Adding that BOYS to the title reminds me of the infuriating divisions at the DiscoveryKids store, where the science kids are separated into "Girl Toys" and "Boy Toys." As if chemistry sets cared who used them. Except, of course, that the Girl Science kits were "Mix up your own cosmetics."

Why must everything marketed to children be explicitly gendered? Sure, maybe it is true that MOST girls will not be interested in Toy X. Fine - let them not be interested! But don't label it prominently with BOY TOY, so that the line-crossing girls are officially labelled as "doing it wrong." Same for "GIRL TOYS." So maybe most Easy-Bake ovens are bought for girls.... but slapping a big "Girl Toy" on the box makes it harder for a boy who wants to bake like Alton Brown to do so.

Stephanie Larson

As a college professor who had to fight for every moment of respect in grad school while pursuing a traditionally male-dominated field, I have to agree with those who get angry when things seemed geared toward "boys" -- as a mother of a three year old daughter, I take offense at the stereotypes that she is already ingesting from our still half-revolutionized patriarchal society at-large.

That said, now I have a 5 month old son, and as a sister and a daughter of a mother with 4 sisters (and therefore as a person with little experience with boys), I am STUPIFIED by the amount of interesting pursuits that are closed off to BOYS in the same manner as other pursuits are "gently forbidden" to girls.

Why are all boys clothes smothered with sports imagery? Why are puppies for boys and kitties for girls? Why is blue (light) ok for girls, but pink not for boys? Why does my daughter get dresses as presents (even when she does not wear them much) whereas my son (still so young) gets footballs already? This kind of engendering clearly starts from the very beginning and takes children of both sexes over by early childhood. Of course, this is getting at the nature vs. nurture debate, as AmyinMotown was discussing -- but I have to say that no matter how hardwired our kids are from birth, I also think that what we surround them with and how we react to their personal interests has a lot of effect on them, either in steering them subconsciously toward certain things or else in creating resentment that we (society) can't acccept what their interests truly are.

That said, I will buy the book for boys for my kids (and my husband and myself), and if they have any questions about the title, I will just blandly tell them that it was a stupid mistake and that, as Moxie said, it was a publishing ploy.

For girls, I am hoping we can teach them to be self-promoting and confident enough not to shrink back and let the boys always raise their hand first or make the first choices, leaving to the girls only what is left. And, as a previous commenter suggested, how to be confident in doing this without being known as an aggressive bitch.

But I think this kind of lesson is a hard one in a society which is still so clearly interested in the promotion of the male. I don't agree with Moxie when she says that "School and most social systems are geared for girls," although I do not have kids yet of school age, so perhaps my disagreement has to do with lack of experience in primary education.


Probably saying every girl should learn how to order single-malt whiskey neat would start a conflagration, no? But I have seen the merits of it.

At a certain age children begin to be fascinated with identity, don't they? and gender is part of that. I would cherish whatever a child enjoys, and I believe it's likely that exploring things that are "gender specific" would be a part of that.


I have two boys and I still think this book could easily be called "A Dangerous Book" or "The Dangerous Book For Kids". I certainly wouldn't want my boys to think that sort of content is "only for boys" as much as I wouldn't want my soon-to-be born daughter thinking that. If the aim is being more risk-taking, or having survival skills, girls as well as boys need to be encouraged in that. And I don't buy the argument that boys need something "just for them" - so much of the world is geared toward what society pushes as appealing to boys/men - because girls will play with "boy toys" but boys won't play with "girl toys". I don't think that's an innate difference, I think that's societal encouragement: things that are classified feminine are weak.

Boys need to know cooking skills, etiquette skills, sewing skills, and relationship skills as much as girls need to know how to change a tire and basic self-defense. I don't think the response is "what do girls need - let's imagine a girls' book". What, is this "separate but equal"? Why do they need to learn anything different from each other? It has amazed me how young the gender stereotype reinforcement starts - and I think this divide is actually getting worse, not better from when I was a child.


Great suggestions. I'm making a list for my daughter (just 9 weeks, but she'll need to know this stuff soon enough; I don't want to leave anything out of her education).

a) How to use a hammer. All the other tool suggestions are good too, but the classics never go out of style (further, I'm amazed at all the people who don't know how to use a hammer).

b) How to tie knots.

c) How to greet a dog.

d) How to train a dog.

e) How to use a library.

When the daughter is old enough, we're teaching her to sail. When she's learning, she will learn how to take orders and execute them swiftly. When she reaches competance she'll get to captain, and she will learn how to give orders, clear and timely. Boston has a fantastic resource: Community Boating. For $1 your 10+ year old gets a summer of sailing classes on the Charles River.


As I was growing up, my parents, and especially my father, made a huge effort (that I was largely oblivious to) to seek out books with strong, smart female leads. Not gender neutral, but specifically "girl" types that were sailors, scientists, adventurers, musicians etc. Then I was encouraged to do the same - taught to sail, hike and camp, play the piano, and eventually get a degree in physics. I was, in fact, shocked when I got to college and *never* had a female professor in my field! I had always been presented with such strong female role models, I seriously thought discrimination was a thing of the past...

I would hope they would have done the same had I been a boy - provide me with examples of smart, strong boys that I could identify with and aspire to. I do believe that gender matters; not in what the activities are, but in how children can envision themselves doing them. The point is to encourage our children to go out there and live, right??

Now that I am a SAHM with a young (4mo) daughter, I am surprised at how much things are gender typed.. but it's not really that hard to provide her with a pretty balanced environment. I imagine this will get harder once we start school! I would love a Dangerous book for Girls. I think if we look hard enough, there already are a few out there!
Authors I love:
Madeleine L'engle
Arthur Ransome
Lucy Montgomery
E Nesbit
Louisa May Alcott


Basic knowledge of:
magic tricks


I've read about 6 reviews of this book in the past couple of weeks, and everyone (parents of at least one boy) has been very excited about it. I am very curious to read it for myself. But I'd hesitate to give it to my 7 year old triplets, because they are one boy and two girls, who are interested in many of the same things. Yes, they are at that age where the girls don't want to do "boy stuff" and the boy doesn't want to do "girl stuff", based on what they read and hear at school, and silly stereotypes. We're working hard to teach them to question those labels, and encourage all three of them to learn about anything that's interesting and worthwhile.

All three would want to read and learn about all the topics in the Dangerous Book (they are voracious readers). But I am not happy with the message that somehow these topics are secret, dangerous things that only boys and men are supposed to understand or want to do.

I love the topics suggested here for a possible Dangerous Book for Girls. But I would far rather that all were included in one omnibus "Dangerous Book" for kids, with no labels.

I think there are other very good books available for young people to learn about camping and woodcraft, tools and repairs, cooking and baking, household maintenance and social skills. We'll work on those, and we'll try to do lots of those activities as a family. We're all building a "clubhouse" fort in the backyard at present, and the kids love helping out with the wood and the tools!

serafina pekkala

I'm intrigued by this discussion, and can see some of both "sides" of the argument here. May I suggest a middle ground, in the awesome 70's chestnut that is "Kids America" by Steven Caney? It's out of print but cheaply available on Alibris.com and Amazon Marketplace. It's a wonderful compendium of facts, games, projects, ghost stories, science experiments, crafts, and all kinds of other cool stuff for kids to do, complete with goofy b/w photos of kids with rugby shirts and bowl cuts. Boys and girls. Together. What a concept! ;)


Sara and Stephanie Larson, HUGE amen to your posts. When I was Christmas/birthday shopping for my daughter this year, I was really dismayed at the lack of gender neutral toys for her. And she was turning TWO, it's only going to get worse as she gets older. I could find plenty of toys I iked, but they all looked like a Barbie dream house blew up on them, or they were very Boy. We ended up going to the pricey indie-Euro toy shop ust to find things that were not so explictly girlie.

This is interesting, too: My parents recently bought her this Fisher-Price basketball hoop that "grows" from like 4 f to 6 ft. She's tall, she's physical, and her daddy loves basketball (and there are lots of HS basketball players, male and female, on both sides of the family). So, we all hope she'll enjoy playing it. ALL the pictures on the box were boys. ALL OF THEM. Now, there's a Little Tykes version of the same thing aimed at smaller kids, and that has a girl along wth the boys. So, by the time they are, say, five, she's not supposed to like this anymore? It made me sad.


So as I was trying to think of what to include in TDBFG, I remembered when my best friend from college and I were talking about childhood fantasies we'd had. Mine was that there'd be a big earthquake that would trap the hottie English teacher in the locker room with me, where he'd fall in love and kiss me (my imagination didn't know where to go beyond that). Hers was that there'd be a big earthquake that would force her to survive in the woods using all the skills her dad had taught her.

I don't have a problem with the book. I'm a relatively successful self-employed consultant, and close to finishing my PhD. I've never made less than any man I've worked with (who was at the same level) and although I have very definitely experienced discrimination/harrassment in the workplace it hasn't affected my ability to get ahead.

I worry way, way more about the incredibly subtle yet persistent ways that society tells women that they are not good enough (heavily airbrushed pictures on magazines at the grocery store immediately come to mind).

I also feel for anyone who by gender, race, socioeconmic status is lacking the networks to get a foothold (at least in corporate America, that to me is way more what affects one's ability to succeed or not).


I totally concur with Sara's words.

As a former middle school English teacher, I'm well aware of the challenge of finding great books that boys will devour.

However, those books don't have to be branded as "boys books" --- b/c that explicit gender branding DOES have a very negative impact on girls. (Check out the Alex Rider series if you're looking for AWESEOME books that your boys ages 9+ will devour, BTW!)

Just calling a book the DANGEROUS BOOK! would be enough to entice boys. But knowing that girls will get their hands on this book, which basically brands all these activities as BOYS ONLY/NO GIRLS ALLOWED, those girls now have to absorb the implicit message that "this stuff is not for your kind"...it's very damaging to a growing girl's self-concept.

As for truly dangerous but utterly joyful, fun pursuits that I recommend to both genders: no one should die without first learning how to ride a motorcycle and then actually riding one on a twisty, mountain road on a beautiful spring day. :-) Taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course and learning to ride my own motorcycle was one of the Top 5 best things I've ever done in my life...but it took a lot of effort to get over 25 years of messages that "girls only ride on the back", "good girls don't ride", etc.

The clothes fitting, pie making stuff is all useful, but "dangerous"? :-)


Learn how to operate a power drill.
Know what can and can't be done to drywall.
Know how to deal with frizzy hair.

And absolutely a working familiarity with the preparation of basic cocktails. Absolutely. And what wines go with what.


Was thinking about this further, and wanted to reiterate Stephanie's point about the limits on boy activities. Try finding a current/recent fiction book about riding with a MALE lead character. Fortunately, there's still the Walter Farley books (The Black Stallion; Little Black, a Pony), and you can now get the Blaze books again. But series reading? Nope. Boys clearly need not apply. Boys don't RIDE horses. Certainly not ENGLISH riding (western, you can find some cowboy stuff if you look really hard). Thank heavens for Baba, who has a play house in her yard that isn't all pink-and-white. And thank heavens for family members who are able to swallow the fact that the twins (girls) have a passion for TRUCKS and BALLS (that seems to have been inborn as much as I can tell - at 5 months M tried to climb out of her carseat to get to a great big shiny black truck, and was utterly ... well, rivetted is too mild a word. She was in rapture. ... and the first time R saw a beach ball being kicked around, she got so excited she lost control of her arms and legs and flapped uncontrollably...). I also highly recommend a lot of the more 'natural' toys - funny how wooden toys don't come in pink and blue. Blocks, wooden castles, realistic stuffed animals, wooden puzzles, stringing beads... not a lot of gender-typing there. I also like IKEA for the egalatarian playthings. Love their kids cookware sets and tea sets (the tea set is nice plain white china, and my boys LOVE to have 'fairy tea' with their grandma using that set - as do the girls!), and while there are nods to girls who like pink, there aren't so many as to make one think 'oh, that's for GIRLS'. Even when pink shows up, it is one of many colors, and the boys have never complained about sitting on the rainbow-colored chairs ... which include pink.

I do agree with Moxie that a lot of current popular/public US education is geared toward socially/physiologically typical female behavior patterns (sitting for long periods of time, listening without physically participating, etc.), and in some places is so extreme in that direction that a lot of girls don't thrive, either (come on, how much fun is lecture-lecture?). That's one reason there are so many boys in the upper grades of the Montessori school G attends - they can get up, move around, and recess is still an essential part of the day (outdoors unless the weather is REALLY bad, period). I'm sensitive to the fact that my kids would not thrive in a typical school setting, at least not until they reach a certain age (varies by individual - B will do better, sooner, than G did, different learning style... no idea yet on M and R). BUT, that said, there seems to be plenty of available 'counter-effort' in our area - rock climbing walls, and tons of active, outdoor, adventurous, 'dangerous' activities available. Mainly geared at getting kids active after spending all day inactive, boys and girls alike. But then 'no art/music/recess in school' is a whoooooole other discussion, LOL!


How about:

Baits used in fishing (Salt water vs. fresh; live bait vs. artificial; etc.), and how to clean them

Campfire cooking

How to rewire a lamp

The wonders of Duct Tape

Basic Photography

And the gender argument?? Boys, schmoys and Girls, schmirls. A child's interests should be their interests, period. Any of our efforts to push them one way or another, or push them to be neutral can only be detrimental. I feel my job as a parent is to expose them to as much as possible; to fill their worlds with wonder. (Mother of 1 boy and 2 girls, formally trained scenic carpenter (never had problems overcoming the 'boys club' that the International Alliance of Theatre and Stage Employees continues to be.) And I think that getting up in arms about gender issues can only be a detrimental influence on a child.


Without diving into the gender debate too much... independent of environmental factors my nephew went through a gun phase (now on to baseball) and my niece is heavy into princess. Neither has been pushed into gender roles. I find it interesting.

Now with a son, I am very interested in anything that will eventually (he is 2.5 months) get him to read.

I grew up around power tools, electricity, and knew how to do stuff and fix stuff. When I was about 9 or 10 I rewired a phone a neighbor gave me so I could hook it up, and didn't tell my parents until after I had done it. Casually informing them I had an extension in my bedroom. My dad was shocked, but pleased I think.

I also around the same age went to strong arm some kid into leaving my little brother alone.

- How to fit in when you need to (maybe James Bond style) (be girly, be not girly, be invisible, be 10 feet tall, etc).

- How to use power tools (and teach your little brother how to use them.)

- How to build a good fort, make stilts, be a human sailboat (on a skateboard with a towel), make a tennisball cannon.

- How cars work.

- How to make a really good cookie. (dangerous for bribery)

- How to tell a good scary story.

and everything people have already mentioned.


duct tape! ha! an excellent suggestion.

Just wanted to add that when I was young I also was the best fisher-girl in the family (for the commenter who mentioned stringing fishing line).

I also tended to pick up snakes and carry them around.

It's not that I was a tomboy, I just wasn't caught up in girl vs boy, and my dad treated me sort of like son-lite because he wasn't so into playing dolls with me. I am thankful that I grew up before having a pocket knife was something a child would be arresetd for.


1. Cleaning a fish
2. Serving a volleyball/throwing a football/shooting a lay-up
4. How to do a flip-flop
3. Parallel parking
4. How to plan and throw a perfect party



I've always hesitated to describe myself as a tomboy, because I wasn't the stereotypical "despises dresses, wishes she were a boy," tomboy.

But I loved treeclimbing, mud-spelunking, shooting, Star Wars, adventuring, survival stories ("My Side of the Mountain," anyone?) and all that good stuff. I also loved dresses, "Little House on the Prairie," and historical fashion.

And I wonder how much of that was that I was a first child and grandchild, only child, and only grandchild for a long time. All the "I will show my grandson/granddaughter X and Y and Z" was focused on ME, and I wanted it all . I built things in my grandfather's shop, and mended victorian lacey things with my granddmother, and birdwatched and tracked with my other grandfather, and baked with my other grandmother. My father showed me how to weild a hammer and my mother showed me how to knit.... and I saw that it was all good -- and that I could do it all, despite being a girl and more than half of it being "boy stuff." I was still a girl at the top of a tree; I was still a girl while running around the neighborhood with a plastic laser blaster yelling "It's Darth Vader! Blast him!"

I don't argue that boys and girls are different; I have one of each. I do argue that many of the differences we like to claim must be innate are probably the result of our own biases in the raising of them -- biases that tend to confirm our own feelings about gender roles. We get ultrasounds at 20 weeks so that we can begin the gender stereotyping before they're even born, we treat male and female infants differently from the very hour of their birth - and then we claim all these differences are inborn.

What would happen if we separated "femininity" from the color pink, the concept of a princess, and the idea that bugs=gross? Can people even envision a world in which someone can embrace the Dangerous Book without having to (supposedly) reject their femininity?


i would like to add in the dangerous book

1.How to be alone. (And be comfortable with the solitude.)

2. How to eat alone in a restaurant (a sit-down place).

3. Travel to far off places that aren't on any sort of ideal vacation guides.


How about just how to be a good friend?

Girls (and women too!) can just slice each other's hearts out. Or maybe I'm still scarred from being on the receiving end of a big "We don't like you!" note in 6th grade.

I have no brothers, but I can't imagine that boys are like this.


Knowing the names of several key car engine components and what they do (generally). (Being able to say "I think my alternator's on the fritz" immediately gains you a certain measure of respect from any mechanic you're talking to, even if you turn out to be wrong.)

And although I'm not sure I'd recommend this overall, I second CJ's "single malt" idea. The ability to appropriately order hard liquor (and drink it, and not make a drunk fool of oneself) is a strangely unexpected talent in girls and would definitely qualify as "dangerous", in the sense of "risque and intimidating".

As for the whole boy-girl thing, I for one was not much put off by the fact that some of my brother's books were specifically targeted to boys. I read them anyway, and gleaned from them whatever information interested me. Both of us asked for (and received) G.I. Joes and My Little Ponies. My parents simply didn't push the gender issue. There were always things that my brother was interested in that I wasn't (and vice versa), and many of those differences remain even now that we're adults. I have a daughter of my own now, and I might very well get her the "Dangerous Book for Boys" if I think she'd be interested in the contents; if she asks about the title, I'll tell her that girls can do a lot of these things too, and the writers just had boys in mind when they wrote it.


I have a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, and don't have any issues with this book being titled "For Boys." I do -- as a self-proclaimed feminist as well as a successful woman in a typically male-dominated field -- have a problem with the crap mass-marketed to girls today (seriously -- Bratz dolls? They might as well come with instructions on how to be a hooker). But I don't believe that issue to be related to developing and marketing a book for boys. Indeed, as the mom of an almost first-grade boy, I'd rejoice at anything that would get him reading and he is 100% more likely to pick up something that he feels is "for boys."

The bigger problem, to me, is how would the book for girls be titled and what would it contain? Provided that it contained as equally wide and non-gender-biased a range of items as the Boy book appears to contain, I really don't care if they make a separate book for each. Indeed, I think there are things that each gender needs to learn that are unique to them. Why ignore this? I think we do children a disservice to treat them as if they were the same -- my kids are proof positive that there are differences between the genders, much of which I believe to be inate.

So, without further ado, here's what I would add to the list for the girls' book:

How to play golf.

How to jump start a car.

How to throw a football.

How to tie a square knot.

How to be taken seriously, even if you are the only woman (girl) in the room.

How to grow a vegetable garden.

How to sit in a skirt.


Why are so many of the things that people are listing that girls "need" to know not nearly as much FUN as the stuff I've seen listed in the Boys book contents?


Sara wrote:

"I don't argue that boys and girls are different; I have one of each. I do argue that many of the differences we like to claim must be innate are probably the result of our own biases in the raising of them -- biases that tend to confirm our own feelings about gender roles. We get ultrasounds at 20 weeks so that we can begin the gender stereotyping before they're even born, we treat male and female infants differently from the very hour of their birth - and then we claim all these differences are inborn."

Sara, I think I might love you. I guess I think there are inherent differences between boys and girls, but I don't think I could quantify it. And I don't think that 'interest in making things' or 'interest in how things work' or 'liking dangerous things' is included on that list. And I think they are generalities rather than specifics. I think kids are hard-wired to want to find gender differences, so they're going to pick up on what's out there. And this book, among other unfortunately stereotypical things, is what's out there. And that makes me sad and frustrated.


I'm an entomologist/ecologist/evolutionary biologist.

In the higher animals that I can think of, males and females behave differently. Perhaps, subtly... but different none the less.

Boys and girls are just little males and females and they ARE Fundamentally different. Sure, the pink/blue/kitten/puppy thing is nuture, not nature, but there are for certain just as many fundamental differences between males and females as there are culturally imposed ones. Though, I'm sick to death of trying to find clothes for my son that don't have trucks or footballs on them (I'm a big dog fan, so I can live with puppies), and I'm trying to convince my otherwise very open-minded, liberal, touchy-feely, modern husband that it'll be good to have Eli take ballet.

And I say all that as a woman who's girlhood was spent building forts, climbing trees, pitching tents, building fires, shooting bow and arrows, climbing mountains, playing with snakes and insects, fishing, with perpentually scraped knees and bruised shins and hair full of pine sap. In my experience it was okay for me to be interested in doing "boy" things... the worst it got me was shunned by all the girls in elementary and middle school (and I was LITERALLY shunned). It was traumatic to experience that, but it probably had more to do with the fact that I am (generously) described as a "spaz" than with the fact that I liked to play baseball and hang on the monkey bars, rather than jump rope.

So, maybe it's not shocking that I don't have a problem with the dangerous book for boys being called that. I guess I agree that there's no reason it couldn't have been called the dangerous book for kids, but in the end, publishers can brand the book how they want to, and we can choose not to buy it if we don't like it.

so my list for girls would include many of the things mentioned above and

-how to shake off unwanted attention so you can just have fun
-how to change your oil
-how to not be taken advantage of by mechanics and contractors
-hot to plunge a toilet and snake a drain


How to accept a breakup with grace and class
How to deliver a breakup with grace and class
How to be "popular" by being NICE to everyone (as opposed to the usual bonding-over-trash-talking-with-a-select-few method)
How to install a shower head that delivers great pressure
How to change the oil in your car
Car basics so you can hold up your end of the conversation with any mechanic (and not have to bring your dad/husband to translate for you)
The difference between "great boyfriend material" and "great husband material" and how to recognize the two.

I'm sure I'll think of more.



How to tie knots
How to play hopscotch, marbles, jacks and other sidewalk games
5 variations on solitaire
How to tell a joke
How to pass a note in class without getting caught
Kitchen chemistry (i.e. making a baking soda volcano, etc.)
Great women inventors

You know, I had a book when I was 10 or so that was aimed at young teenagers, that gave tips about how to apply makeup, do hair etc. to best flatter, and how to attract boys, how to avoid cliques, how to get in with the "in" crowd, how to stand out, etc. etc. etc. It felt really "dangerous" because that was what I was interested in knowing, even if I wasn't ready to enter that world quite yet. It wasn't that I wasn't interested in more gender-neutral activities, in fact I was and am pretty outdoorsy. The whole tone of the book was brassy, smart, and take-charge. So the stuff about how to pick flattering clothes and so on -- to me, that's something girls are interested in... done right, that could feel "dangerous" and fun rather than placing an overdue emphasis on appearance.

In fact, future topics for the "Dangerous Book for Boys" could include:
How to dress for every occasion, including how to tie a perfect Windsor knot
How to flirt
How to compliment a girl


I have two toddler boys. After reading all the comments, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. This book is supposed to be FUN, not how to pass trig. class. I would suggest a chapter on how to know when it's ok NOT to take yourself or life too seriously.

Imagine for a minute if there were NO book entitled TDBFB. Pretend it doesn't exist, but there exists TDBFGirls. Would anyone say how unfair it was to boys that *they* didn't have one? No! Of course not! Why can't we just let the book be? Why can't we celebrate boys and males without being afraid that it somehow detracts from girls and women?

I very respectfully disagree with the concept that by naming/marketing a book to a boy, somehow damage is done the self-concept or esteem of a girl who might come across the title. Am I to believe that girls are so damn fragile that they would snap in half? We're talking about a fun kids book for goodness sake! Where is the fun!!

Our society these days is geared towards people with resources, privilage, and money - and not men and males. You can't tell me that a young woman who is lucky enough to have the resources to attain a great education is worse off in life than a male counterpart who doesn't have the assets to do the same.

26. How to repair your shoe with chewing gum.
27. How to make a whistle out of a blade of grass
28. How to pick a lock
29. Slumber party survival - how to paint "awake" eyes onto your eyelids so you don't end up covered in shaving cream.
30. How to hollow out a book to use as a secret hiding place so no one can find your diary.
31. (For my darling husband) how to remove a woman's bra quickly and with just one hand in a pitch dark room.


I wish more people could get such positive vibes about differences and "dangerous" books when it comes to "Heather has Two Mommies" or something of that nature. Actually, there are better books of that kind out, but I think you get the idea.


I don't know; after thinking about this during our car ride this weekend I decided there would and should be no difference in the books. I wish the publishers would just do the one-book-two-covers thing if they want to tap into the 'for boys' and 'for girls' market.


The thing of it is, I don't want my girls to know how to do certain things, and my boys to know how to do other things. All the items on the list you've posted should be well-known by both boys AND girls, and NOTHING on those lists has anything to do with gender.

Just the idea of the need for different lists to satisfy the needs of boys and girls smacks of gender stereotyping. You may believe that there are "differences" between boys and girls, but those differences don't need to be supported or reinforced at all times.

What do I think needs to be added to the list? 1) the ability to cook meats/pastas/vegetables; 2) how to balance a checkbook; 3) basic investment knowledge; 4) how to begin saving and the importance of saving for retirement; 5) the importance of helping people who are less fortunate (and how that can reinforce self-esteem/self-confidence).

I also think we need to stop teaching children that they are special flowers who can do anything at all. It's that attitude that's leading to an astonishing amount of narcissism and self-involvement in the US, so I am very firm in my belief that we should be teaching our kids about realism from a young age. I'm not saying not to encourage them in what they want to do, by the way.


Another thought experiment:

How would you feel about TDBFB if it contained nothing but math and science stuff? Math proofs, science experiments, etc., all presented in an innovative and interesting way -- dangerous, mysterious, exciting. Would you buy it for a boy? For a girl?

Now keep the content the same (interesting math and science stuff) but change the name to TDBFG. Would you buy it for a boy? For a girl?

I've been thinking about whether there is a limit to the idea that it's OK to have stuff for boys and stuff for girls. I would bet a lot of people (parents of boys included) would object to a cool math and science book being called "For Boys." Parents of girls might love a cool math and science book "For Girls." Don't know if parents of boys would object -- they might think math and science are so male dominated anyway, one book for girls makes no difference. Or maybe they would be annoyed that boys are excluded from this cool new book, at least in the name.

Still thinking on this one.


Another thought experiment:

How would you feel about TDBFB if it contained nothing but math and science stuff? Math proofs, science experiments, etc., all presented in an innovative and interesting way -- dangerous, mysterious, exciting. Would you buy it for a boy? For a girl?

Now keep the content the same (interesting math and science stuff) but change the name to TDBFG. Would you buy it for a boy? For a girl?

I've been thinking about whether there is a limit to the idea that it's OK to have stuff for boys and stuff for girls. I would bet a lot of people (parents of boys included) would object to a cool math and science book being called "For Boys." Parents of girls might love a cool math and science book "For Girls." Don't know if parents of boys would object -- they might think math and science are so male dominated anyway, one book for girls makes no difference. Or maybe they would be annoyed that boys are excluded from this cool new book, at least in the name.

Still thinking on this one.


Something that strikes me is that when I think of what could be added to the list for a TDBFG, I keep thinking of things that I think girls "should" know -- how to interrupt gracefully in a meeting, how to NOT be interrupted in a meeting, how to take credit for your own work, (I'm kind of preoccupied with work these days), etc., etc. I think some of the previous posters have also thought along this line -- things that will be helpful to girls as they grow up, that perhaps run counter to gender stereotypes.

And then it occurs to me that none of these are really "dangerous" things that might capture the imagination of a young girl. I think what we are really talking about here are two different books:

1. A DANGEROUS book for kids, with all the fun and "dangerous" things -- like previous posters mentioned: magic tricks, whistling on a blade of grass, doing a cannonball dive, etc.

2. A SURVIVAL book for kids (both boys and girls) in the sense of what it takes to "survive" in today's world. Which might include topics such as (and I'm trying to make these relevant/interesting for kids):

* How to handle a bully (physical and emotional kinds of bullies)
* Saving money for a rainy day
* Caring for a cat/dog
* Discovering and cooking a signature meal
* How to not be interrupted in a meeting!

It occurs to me that the things in the former "DANGEROUS" book are not necessarily what parents teach their kids. In some cases, yes. But in other cases, no. My parents didn't teach me to make a fort - I went out with my sister and found sticks, and borrowed sheets, and we discovered how to do this (and other similar things) ourselves. What would go into the SURVIVAL guide -- I think that's the stuff that parents are more likely to teach their children. But I still think it would be handy to have it as a reference guide, written in an interesting and fun way for kids!

Re: the gendering of children -- I have a 9 month old son, and yes, it frustrates me to NO end to have all the toys/clothes marketed to him be so "masculine." I refuse to shop at Pottery Barn Kids (well other than the prices) because if you look at the girls' section, it's all pink irons, pink blenders, pink vacuum cleaners, and the boys' section has what I consider to be the really cool toys -- airplanes, giant puzzles, etc. I think most of us here agree that raising kids to pursue what THEY want to do, regardless of gender is an incredible challenge. And maybe that's where we need a third book, just for parents, of fun/cool/creative things to do with kids that will turn gender stereotypes on their heads.

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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