Many see it as a welcome antidote not only to the narrow and sedentary interests of the digital age but to the safety-obsessed, anti-competitive mindset of “politically correct” schooling and to feminist scorn for all things male.
The book is winning praise for its assumption that boys will be boys and girls will be different, Young writes. There’s been little feminist backlash, despite the implication that girls are the weaker sex.
In one grating passage, boys are encouraged to carry a handkerchief, among other things, for “offering one to a girl when she cries.” Boys are reminded not to make a girl feel stupid if she needs help, but nothing is said about the possibility of accepting help from a girl, or losing gracefully if bested by a girl at some “boy” activity.
Young worries that The Dangerous Book for Boys is “being treated as a restoration of old-fashioned wisdom about boys and girls.”
The “free to be you and me” message of 1970s feminism was often naÃ¯ve in its assumption that all differences between the sexes were the result of social conditioning. But it also had a liberating message of celebrating individuality.
HarperCollins will publish The Daring Book for Girls in November.
I just read the first three Fairy Chronicles books, which are written for young girls. They imagine that ordinary girls discover they’re fairies who must rescue the feather of hope, restore the web of dreams, etc. The stories are very girly while including some mild adventure. I wish the girls were different from the norm, insecure and lonely and then learned they were special. There’s more zing to it that way. And surely a girl’s relationship to her friends and rivals changes when she learns how to fly.
Update: A British father writes about how hard it is to sit back and let his son and friend use The Dangerous Book on their own.
When they began stripping the bark off with a big, shiny, sharp-bladed Swiss Army knife, I had to dig down deep in order to ignore the parental risk-ometer readings that were going off the scale, accompanied by vivid flash-forwards of the inevitable long, bloodstained-bandaged hours ahead in casualty
It’s even harder when the boys ignore their father’s help to build their own imperfect catapult.