The Daring Book for Girls

I was at a dinner gathering once when a man said, “If it were left up to women you’d all still be beating clothes on rocks to get them clean.” I asked him what in the world he meant by that comment and his response was that women never invented anything and that if it weren’t for men we’d all still be living in caves. I was pretty sure he was wrong and I managed to point out that Marie Curie discovered radioactivity and that the structure of DNA was actually discovered by a woman named Rosalind Franklin who had her work essentially stolen by Watson and Crick but that was the best I could do. I told him I’d get back to him, went home and did a google search of ‘women inventors’ and discovered that women invented Kevlar and the dishwasher among other things.

When I was little my mother used to tell me that there were no female mathematicians or composers because women’s brains just didn’t work like that. I believed her. She also told me that women couldn’t be pilots because their vision changed during “that time of the month” and I bought that, too. My mother spent her whole life believing that silliness. As an adult I read a book called “Fermat’s Enigma” that laid the mathematician issue to rest (women were not allowed to be mathematicians but some managed to follow their passion anyhow) and a visit with the Oakland Women’s Symphony put the composer issue to rest – there have been many female composers through history. Seeing women in pilot’s uniforms heading to the cockpit of the plane I was on dispelled myth #3.

Too bad we didn’t have The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz when I was a kid because the man and my mother would have known better. The Daring Book for Girls was written initially in response to The Dangerous Book for Boys, a publication that generated quite a stir about sexism and boy vs. girl interests. I’m happy to say that The Daring Book for Girls is not just a step for step copy of the Dangerous Book for Boys although it is written in somewhat the same style – they both have chapters, for example. I am so happy with how this book was put together because it really honors girls across the board acknowledging a broad spectrum of interests from building a scooter to making daisy chains.

In addition to chapter on the rules of soccer, how to be spy, how to play hopscotch, how to paddle a canoe and what camping is all about are chapters on famous women. There is a full chapter on Joan of Arc, five chapters on Queens of the Ancient World, A Short History of Women Inventors and Scientists (if only I had had THAT info in my hip pocket at my dinner party), Modern Women Leaders and A Short History of Women Olympic Firsts and Famous Women Pirates – YES! . There is a chapter about the letters Abagail Adams wrote to John Adams that explains how important she was to him and how much influence she had on how he ran the country. It is an excellent model of a marriage that focuses on having a peer relationship, something you don’t see a lot of on TV or at the movies.

The chapter on the The Daring Girls Guide to Danger talks about dangerous activities a girl might like such as white water rafting and wearing high heels. Guys if you’ve never tried walking in a pair of hills you have no idea. It also includes ‘Stand up for yourself – or someone else’ which can be a very dangerous thing to do but also very empowering.

I love it that this book isn’t just about building go-carts and climbing trees and making volcanoes out of baking powder and vinegar. It unapologetically covers such ‘girly’ topics as playing jacks, putting your hair up with a pencil and making a cootie catcher. And there are the more practical chapters on changing a tire, negotiating a salary and first aid. It teaches history, the Bill of Rights, the history of handwriting and more.

Just as the Dangerous Book for Boys has a chapter on “Girls” (which leans on tradition and casts girls as silly unpredictable creatures you can’t live with and can’t live without), The Daring Book for Girls has a chapter on “Boys”. It talks about the kind of stereotypes we assign to boys and the kind of stereotypes assigned to girls. It talks about how what is really important is that we honor people and their diversity and that we respect everyone’s individuality. My favorite passage from this chapter reads “[if you like boys there are 2 things to keep in mind….] “One, if a boy doesn’t like you the way you are, the problem is him, not you. And two, don’t try to make a boy change for you – it’s important to appreciate people for who they are.”

This book is unabashedly pro-girl without being anti-boy. You would be hard pressed to cast the contents of this book in terms of any of the many gender wars plaguing the media and therefore our culture today. It isn’t about girls being anything other than who they are and about feeling good about that. It’s about being the most and best girl you can be. It is about how girls can and have made significant contributions in the world because girls don’t really just want to have fun – they want to count and they want it to be okay to be strong and smart and creative and to have some power.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to parents of daughters or aunts of nieces or friends of girls or, in my case, prospective grandmothers of granddaughters. It will be a while before I can put this book to use first hand (other than to read it with my grown girls) but when the time comes I will do just that. In the meantime, I think I’ll give a copy to my friend from the dinner party.

Clicking the Amazon link will help Kelso, too!

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15 Responses to The Daring Book for Girls

  1. Ohhh…love love love!!!

    so I gotta know…is it age appropriate for 5-year-olds (assuming mommy reads to them)? or is this something I put on the shelf for later when they can read it themselves?

  2. They are never too young to make use of this book. Actually babies won’t get much out of it but I think 5 is not too soon. I’d say 7 – 9 is the sweet spot for girls to use this independently but a 5 year old could learn a lot from this book.

  3. Tammy says:

    Very cool! As for your dinner party friend, he IS still living in a cave. sigh.

  4. Bob says:

    I think I will get this for my daughter for Christmas. She’s only seven but reading above that and I think she can handle it. Thanks!

  5. greyhound says:

    Shhhhhh. Santa already has one in the sled for a certain Uper-Say Ounce-Pay.

  6. Mother Chaos says:

    Awesome book!! Sounds like Must Read material for the Denizens.

    It’s hard to imagine that there are still people who buy into that kind of silliness – “women don’t invent”?

    Oooooooookay. Where’d you park the horse and buggy, Jethro? Not many hitchin’ posts out on the streets here in the 21st century…

  7. Anne says:

    It may be a little too young for my girls, so I’ll buy it for my neice and make them read it to her. Thanks for this post!

    And having always worked in male-dominated fields, I am certain women invented far more than they’ve received recogntion for. There’s something with the male species that won’t allow them to give credit — just quickly and stealthily take it — when it suits their own ambitions. It’s happened to me countless times.

  8. fe-lady says:

    Wish I had had that book to read growing up…I think I would have avoided many mistakes and embarrassing moments! (Maybe a 21 year old will STILL get it for Christmas!) 🙂
    P.S. My mom flew planes in the 40s.

  9. momo says:

    thanks, mom, this would be perfect for frankie for christmas! i want her to know she can do ANYTHING. anything at all she wants to do.

    hugs and happy thanksgiving!

  10. comm's says:

    I bought the Dangerous Book for Boys on your reccommendation and its sits on my table at home. Mo is still a bit young for it.

    Kevlar was created by a woman. Thank the Lord for that. and thank you for your wonderful friendship this year.

    Happy Thanksgiving

  11. comm's says:

    I bought the Dangerous Book for Boys on your reccommendation and its sits on my table at home. Mo is still a bit young for it.

    Kevlar was created by a woman. Thank the Lord for that. and thank you for your wonderful friendship this year.

    Happy Thanksgiving

  12. Kristina says:

    I love the trend in empowering girls to do things that were once only encouraged in boys, but I have the same qualms with The Daring Book for Girls as I have with the Dangerous Book for Boys: why must our children live in such a gendered and dichotomous system? Why can’t there just be a Dangerous/Daring Book for Kids? I just can’t help thinking of all the youth out there who simply don’t see themselves as belonging to either category of girl or boy (and there are many, who may be hiding, but are certainly a group to care about). These books are great in many ways, but I just don’t know about their exclusivity. There are boys who enjoy fashion (and more power to them) and could stand to learn a few things from a book few would “dare” to pick up because it is marketed to girls.
    Your review was very well-written and engaging–thanks for it.

  13. Ana says:

    Great post! A co-worker of mine bought a stack for the “Dangerous Book for Boys” for all of his young nephews but said there wasn’t anything out there for his nieces (I don’t think he bothered to look). I’m so happy that’s not true, and that the book for girls is so well done. Thanks for the review. I’m going to send the link to this to him.

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