Hurray! Oh, Rats.

I just read in The New York Times that a recently-published volume called “The Dangerous Book for Boys” has zoomed up to Number Two on the Amazon bestseller list, outdone only by the latest Harry Potter. I’m elated! This book instructs kids on such worthwhile activities as how to make a tree house, skip stones, and fold paper airplanes. Hurray!
Author:
Publish date:

Discuss this article

I just read in The New York Times that a recently-published volume called “The Dangerous Book for Boys” has zoomed up to Number Two on the Amazon bestseller list, outdone only by the latest Harry Potter. I’m elated! This book instructs kids on such worthwhile activities as how to make a tree house, skip stones, and fold paper airplanes. Hurray! 

But wait. Now that I think about it I realize I find that disheartening. Yes, it’s disheartening that kids have to be told by a twenty-five-dollar book how to do such things as throw rocks. Weren’t these the kinds of activities children used to figure out on their own, or pick up from the kid next door, or maybe learn from their own mom and dad? Now they have to buy a book that provides written instructions and diagrams on simple childhood games? Oh, how pathetically low we’ve sunk. 

Oh well. Maybe we’ve hit bottom and are on our way back up. Since this book is selling jillions of copies, maybe it’ll mean that kids start spending a little less time with their TVs and Nintendos and a little more time outdoors. Maybe its popularity portends a shift in how we look at childhood and at playtime. Maybe, in fact, our society is realizing that kids need the opportunity to actually entertain themselves rather than constantly be entertained by organized activities and electronics. I guess I DO feel elated! The truth is, the great success of “The Dangerous Book for Boys” is fantastic news no matter how you look at it! 

Discuss this article

Discuss this article

Or maybe not. You could look at it this way. Perhaps it’s just nostalgic parents buying the book for the nice little excursion it offers down memory lane. One of its own authors, Conn Iggulden, speaks of “the appalled reaction of many parents to a health-and-safety culture that prevents half the activities they took for granted as kids — and that they know were important to their growth and confidence.” So maybe it’s the parents who want to reminisce about playing kickball and tag while their own kids continue to dribble away the time with video games. Surely it’s the grownups with the credit cards, and not their children, who are responsible for the book’s status on the Amazon bestseller list. 

Then again (I’m sorry; does it seem like I keep going back and forth on this?) The New York Times article spoke promisingly of a broader movement, spearheaded by a growing number of national and local advocacy and research organizations to restore unstructured play in children’s lives. These groups cite numerous studies which report that such play has many benefits, from helping children develop their imaginations to helping them learn to get along with others. If that’s true, if “The Dangerous Book for Boys” is just one small part of a bigger campaign that’s taking families in this country in the right direction, then I guess it really is a good thing. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier! 

Yes, I’ve made up my mind now. In the final analysis I really AM thrilled about the success of “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” I’m elated! 

Um, just one last thought...which is admittedly a bit of a negative one. I’m not sure I like the book’s title. Why didn’t they call it “The Dangerous Book for Boys and Girls”? That really is disappointing.

—Muffy

Discuss this article

Related

School Projects from Hell

My sister-in-law was telling me recently about a school project assigned to her daughter in kindergarten. This was the cheerful instruction the teacher sent home on a sheet of bright yellow paper: Bake a cookie which represents the Great Plains ~ Bring to class on Monday!

My Work Here is Done

It’s been five years now since my first book, “Confessions of a Slacker Mom,” was published. And not only have my royalty checks diminished to the point where they’ll barely cover the cost of a double Frappucino, it seems the book itself has now outlived its usefulness.

Welcome to Motherhood Britney Spears

The last time I flipped through a People magazine in the checkout aisle at the grocery store I saw they had a flattering portrayal of the about-to-give-birth Britney Spears (will someone please, please tell me the Britney pregnancy photos are seriously digitally enhanced), including some pictures of her with her one-year old, Sean Preston.

Please, No More Genius Babies

Apparently Baby Einstein videos, according to University of Washington research, don’t actually work—you can’t turn your baby into a genius by making him or her watch TV.

Worry, Worry, Worry

I just finished reading the December 4 Time magazine cover story titled “Why We Worry About the Wrong Things.” “Nearly twice as many Americans commit suicide each year as are murdered. More than 10 times as many die falling out of bed as from lightning strikes,”

We're Being Watched

A few weeks ago I asked my 6-year old son, Joe, to please get the dinner dishes off the table. But it was one of our first really nice spring days, and he was already on his way out the back door to play in the yard.

Brush Your Teeth and I’ll Buy You a Car

There was an interesting article the other day from the Associated Press about how parents use rewards, more inelegantly known as bribes, to get their kids to do what they want. One downside of this approach, of course, is that by continually giving your kids presents — or as many parents do, cold hard cash — in exchange for their acceptable behavior, you might run out of money before said kids ever get out of the house and on their own.