Girl­ish pur­suits

The Herald - Arts - - Books - SHIRLEY WHITESIDE


Vik­ing £18.99

One of the sur­prise hits of last year was The Dan­ger­ous Book for Boys, a de­cid­edly un-PC guide to hav­ing fun writ­ten by brothers Conn and Hal Ig­gulden. In­stead of be­ing glued to television or com­puter screens, boys were en­cour­aged to cre­ate their own amuse­ments. For chil­dren used to hav­ing ev­ery­thing done for them there was a cer­tain nov­elty value in learn­ing to make a sling­shot or light a camp­fire. How­ever, there was a sneak­ing sus­pi­cion that the suc­cess of the book might be in no small part at­trib­uted to dads nos­tal­gic for a more in­no­cent child­hood. The pub­lish­ing in­dus­try is never slow to jump on a band­wagon, and sure enough Rose­mary David­son and Sarah Vine have trun­dled out this sim­i­lar guide ded­i­cated to girls. Just what to­day’s young girls – with their belly-rings, pro­fes­sional man­i­cures and Bar­bie-pink fash­ions – will make of this book is less cer­tain, how­ever. It may be that their par­ents, used to wrap­ping their lit­tle princesses in cot­ton wool and plonk­ing them in front of the television, will be thor­oughly alarmed at find­ing in­struc­tions on how to make wa­ter bombs, play spin-the-bot­tle, or han­dle guns safely. At first glance there is a real Enid Bly­ton “lash­ings-of-ginger-beer” feel to the book. It has a splen­didly retro navy blue cover and looks like some­thing that’s been found lan­guish­ing and al­most forgotten at the bot­tom of an old toy box. With sub­ject head­ings such as Das­tardly Tricks, and Pets and Ponies, it might seem rather out of touch with the mod­ern miss. But David­son and Vine have pitched their ma­te­rial care­fully and the chap­ters are in­for­ma­tive and re­as­sur­ing with a know­ing touch of dry hu­mour that can be ap­pre­ci­ated by more grown-up girls. Al­though there is a chap­ter on needle­craft and sev­eral con­tain recipes, th­ese are not pre­sented as the right­ful do­main of girls, but rather as life skills that are a use­ful ad­di­tion to any­one’s knowl­edge. This no-non­sense approach will ap­peal to those girls who en­joy more ac­tive pur­suits. Chap­ters on the great out­doors and how to care for an­i­mals pro­vide a wel­come bal­ance to those on make-up, hair care and per­fume. The book is il­lus­trated through­out with charm­ing line draw­ings by Nat­acha Led­widge and also con­tains in­for­ma­tion on in­spi­ra­tional women, from He­len of Troy, Vir­ginia Woolf and Rosa Parks to Aung San Suu Kyi. That th­ese women are fa­mous for do­ing some­thing use­ful rather than fa­mous for be­ing fa­mous makes for a laud­able fea­ture. This is a book that will no doubt ap­peal to moth­ers and grand­moth­ers who will re­mem­ber many of the games, ac­tiv­i­ties and prac­ti­cal skills with af­fec­tion, al­though ex­actly what one does with the long tubes cre­ated by French knit­ting is still a mys­tery. For younger girls, cre­at­ing toys and games from scratch will pro­vide a sense of achieve­ment that is miss­ing from most shop-bought toys, while hints on how to deal with boys – “ex­press­ing emo­tion comes as nat­u­rally to a boy as bal­let does to an ele­phant” – will prob­a­bly be much pored over.


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