Andi Buchanan and I are the co-authors of The Daring Book for Girls
, and we've been waiting excitedly ever since we learned in late September that we'd be guest bloggers here at Powells.com. Our new book is The Daring Book for Girls
, and it's the quintessential manual for being a girl, a 7- to 14-year-old girl. Its vision is one that sidesteps all the hi-tech gadgets our girls have now, and that sidesteps the avalanche of girlhood-destroying media our young ones get buried in at such young ages. We'll be blogging here all week, and will also report on an NPR segment about the book that's being made this week.
Nine, it seems, is the new seventeen. Girls of younger and younger age succumb to the pressure of acting and dressing like much older girls and women. In the process, they lose the chance to figure out their own dreams, their own selves, and their own way to be in this world. The path from girlhood to womanhood seems so narrow these days, and we hope that The Daring Book for Girls, and books like it, might help widen that path.
At my own home, I started to notice that my daughter and her friends never seemed to have anything to do on their playdates, this despite their many toys, despite a closet full of arts and crafts supplies, despite a backyard dotted with soccer balls and even a tetherball pole. It was as if girlhood, as an experience, was empty. I noticed that at very young ages, my daughter and her friends would easily devolve to hanging out on her bed and talking about other girls.
My 19-year-old niece told me just the other day that, in her opinion, there's not much to do from the time you're 10 until you learn to drive. The projects and activities and knowledge in The Daring Book for Girls aim to provide an antidote to all that. They provide new things to know: everything from spies (who knew chef Julia Child was a spy?), to what to do with all that ivy in the yard (make an ivy crown), to five queens from antiquity, to softball, basketball, and Greek and Latin root words. Individually, all the topics are fun and interesting. Together, they add up to something even more than the sum of the parts: a vision in which girls know things ? fun factoids and information about the world ? and in which girls know how to do things ? whether traditional rural crafts like pressing flowers, carpentry skills so they can make the whole flower press, or how to hook up batteries and copper wire to make a simple flashlight. A girlhood of knowing and doing, for the twenty-first century ? that's what this book is about.
With all this focus on knowing and doing, we are often asked whether we are anti-technology. This question usually comes from a reporter who has had so much trouble making a conference call to get us both on the phone that I've had to hang up and dial her number and Andi's on my phone, and merge the calls into a conference (thank goodness for fantastic cellphones, yes?). That's right, reporters who can't make use of a technology that is several decades old sometimes try to make us out as Luddites. Our answer is that we love the many new technologies, but one can't IM and hang out in MySpace all day long. Eventually you need some knowledge about how the world works and what's in it. There's a great deal to the rest of life, and sometimes you need a compass and a trail map ? not a browser and Google ? to get there. Technology is great, but it's the rest of life we're intrigued by too.
Before we head out of our first blog entry, here are a few thoughts on the word "daring." We adore the word "daring." It's a word that hasn't been used too much, especially for girls, and especially in a positive light. Daring is a spirit of adventure. It's about waking up and seeing each day as an opportunity for adventure and fun. And with all the pressures our kids experience ? one recent study put "getting into a good college" as the #1 worry of 9-year-old girls ? that's crazy times we're living in, and it's not good for our kids, or for us.
It's good solid fun, the low-tech kind that doesn't cost much money, the kind of fun that feels rewarding and makes you giggle, and maybe both at the same time. Fun sounds frivolous, but in these times, when the innocence of girlhood and boyhood are disappearing fast, and in which our kids become jaded and hyper-sophisticated way too early for their own good, fun is a great deal more important than it sounds. So get out there, dare to have fun, dare to find your dreams, and dare to get in the game, whatever your game might be.