Monday, November 5, 2007

Daring Book for Girls: Author Q&A

Earlier this year, the book, “The Dangerous Book for Boys” made national best seller lists. Its call for boys to start being precocious, uncoddled and un-bubble-wrapped resonated with many parents who are loathe to slip into the role of helicopter parents.

But while many of us took comfort in seeing a book filled with instructions on how to do traditional activities for boys spotlighted, there was definitely a question left hanging: What about the girls? Authors Miriam Peskowitz and Andrea Buchanan teamed up and filled the void, publishing, “The Daring Book for Girls.” The two kindly answered some questions about the book and why it’s important to give girls back their girlhood.

Meredith O’Brien, blogger: So the book, “The Dangerous Book for Boys” was a rousing success. Made best seller lists. Garnered national media mentions. Did you feel like the girls needed a book of their own so they could live on the “dangerous” side of life as well? Why did you put this book together?

Miriam Peskowitz, co-author: Absolutely! When we saw, “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” we had two responses: Cool book, and where are the girls? Twenty-first century girls need a book to guide them through the years of girlhood.

Andrea Buchanan: Yeah – and while there are certain things in the boys’ book that our daughters loved and wanted to do, girls have a history of their own, and we wanted to honor that.

O’Brien: While flipping through this book, it brought back a treasure trove of memories for me, memories of slumber parties (chanting, “Light as a feather, stiff as a board”), playing Chinese jump rope and four-square on the playground, making a “God’s eye” at camp. Was a lot of this fueled by nostalgia?

Peskowitz: No, we’re not nostalgic types. Including those memories was fueled by our conviction that the traditions of girlhood matter, that these are important things that should be remembered and passed on. Sometimes the things girls do, like Chinese jump rope, are seen as marginal, while things boys do, marbles, for example, are tagged as retro and important. Some of that old girl stuff is incredible, and it was fun to include it with all sports like basketball and darts, and with all the activities.

Buchanan: Some of the entries were a trip down memory lane, but many of those topics were brought starkly into the present as we looked at girls today and how they play. Hand-clap games, for instance, I never taught my daughter how to do them, and yet she knows. Girls on the playground still play these games, so even though they seem nostalgic to us, they’re still relevant and important to girls today.

O’Brien: What’s your favorite activity in “Daring?”

Peskowitz: My favorite changes every day. Today’s is “Lamp, Lantern, Flashlight.” It’s all about electricity and making circuits. It uses some D-cell batteries and a small light bulb, a stretch of copper wire and some electrical tape. I had fun with this because electricity is so mystifying. When I worked on this chapter, I learned a great deal about circuits and batteries. Electricity isn’t a traditional girl thing, now is it? But my older daughter and I like doing these kinds of projects, and one of her babysitters, a young woman named Rachel, used to bring the makings for various electrical activities when she came over.

Buchanan: It’s hard to pick just one favorite! The tiny chapter on learning how to whistle with two fingers was very fun to research and practice (if possibly a little annoying for anyone around me listening to my attempts at perfecting a piercing, cab-hailing whistle).

O’Brien: The entries seem like a blend of general knowledge (explaining the Bill of Rights, Robert’s Rules of Order and a section on state capitols), and information that emphasizes girl power, like the section on famous queens of the ancient world, female world leaders and how to be a spy. What were your criteria when selecting what activities you included in the book?

Peskowitz: Great question. We tapped into the big question, "What should a girl know?" and we sought out answers that nobody's had before. The book's eclecticism is great. We really like the surprises of the mixture. We had fun combining things that usually don't come together, like the rules of bowling next to a story about an ancient queen, or yoga next to silly pranks like making fake blood and short-sheeting a bed. There are lots of different girls out there, and we wanted "Daring" to feel like a home for all of them.

Buchanan: We both really just love knowing stuff, and we think girls do, too – it's empowering to know how to do things, and it's empowering to know information, history, facts, and interesting, sometimes obscure bits of lore. We tried to compile a really wide-ranging selection of chapters so that every girl could read the book and discover something she hadn't known before.

O’Brien: What’s been the reaction of your own daughters?

Peskowitz: They love it.

Buchanan: My daughter already tagged the book with post-its, noting which pages she likes best (no surprise, the only vaguely sporty chapter she's into is tag!). She's tremendously proud of the book -- but she was really annoyed that we hadn't included "Because of Winn Dixie" in the chapter on, "Books That Will Change Your Life"! We got into a nice discussion of what books mean to people because of that.

1 comment:

RadarMa said...

I remember hearing this book was in the making..THANKS!!