The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden (Collins) was a huge hit; according to Nielsen BookScan, it has sold 353,000 copies since its May publication. Writers and mothers Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz took one look at that book and thought, "Where’s the girls’ book?" Days later, they were at HarperCollins’s office signing a deal for The Daring Book for Girls with the same editor who bought The Dangerous Book for Boys. Set for an October publication, the book is a manual for everything that girls need to know (and that doesn’t mean sewing buttonholes). It covers female heroes in history, secret note-passing skills, science projects, friendship bracelets, double dutch, cats cradle, the perfect cartwheel, the eternal mystery of what boys are thinking and more.
How did you come to write this book?
Andrea Buchanan: Miriam and I were both published with Seal Press so we knew each other. And we’d worked together in promoting our other books. We brought the idea to HarperCollins, having enjoyed the Dangerous Book for Boys but feeling concerned that there should be something for girls, too. That was in May. We e-mailed a proposal and got a phone call saying, "Let’s meet tomorrow." The editor of DBFB in the U.S., Matthew Benjamin, bought it.
Why did you want to write it?
Miriam Peskowitz: We both saw DBFB and had the same exact response: what a fantastic book—but where’s the book for girls? We wanted girls to be in on the fun. We both have girls aged around eight and nine.
AB: We’re writing for girls who are ages eight to 14, and for their mothers, too
MP: And their grandmothers.
How did your academic backgrounds affect your writing of the book?
AB: It’s true that some of the issues we’ve been dealing with before we’ve been dealing with as feminists [Buchanan wrote Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It and edited the anthologies It’s a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons and It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters; Peskowitz wrote The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars]. But first and foremost, we’re writers. We joke that this may be the first time your PhD and all this fantastic academic experience was really pertinent. For instance, Miriam was perfect to write the historical nonfiction sections about the queen.
How did you go about your research?
AB: We picked the brains of a lot of friends, and read reference books, encyclopedias and miscellany books.
MP: We also read a lot of old Girl Scout manuals, and I did a lot of watching the kids in my backyard.
How is this book different from DBFB?
AB: It’s not a pinkified version of the boy book with tea party stuff instead of Navajo talking code. We see this as a companion book, not a response or critique to that book. We wanted to get back to that time when girls were just girls without having to be aware of their impending womanhood, an earnest time when girls could go out and play and not worry about their hair.
MP: There is a lot of overlap [between the books], especially in the outdoor and camping stuff that boys and girls share. But we have different knots than they do and a different paper airplane (ours is cooler). And we wanted to bring in all the girl stuff, like slumber parties.
AB: We wanted to be inclusive of a girl being any kind of girl, playing jump rope, building a scooter or paddling a canoe.