Hello, boys: The Glorious Book for Girls

A book of traditional boyhood pastimes became this summer's surprise bestseller. Now the girls are getting in on the act. Katy Guest and Hermione Eyre report
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The Independent Culture

Since early this year, girls have been green with envy. While their fortunate brothers played go-karts and built tree houses all the long summer, the sisters have been stuck in the iPod generation. Publishers have been green with envy, too. When Conn and Hal Iggulden's The Dangerous Book for Boys was launched by HarperCollins three months ago, other editors smacked their scabby knees in fury as it shinned up the bestseller charts like a nipper up a conker tree. Now two clever lasses have each come up with their own jolly wheeze.

The Glorious Book for Girls is being billed as the answer to a young lady's prayers. Written by Rosemary Davidson, herself a publisher, it has just been snapped up by Viking's Venetia Butterfield, and is already hot on the heels of its macho rival.

"The book will hark back to simpler times," says Ms Butterfield, "when girls made coconut ice with their grannies, rather than being obsessed with pink and wearing thongs aged eight." Like the boys' book, it will aim to revive the traditional games of childhood that have been lost to health and safety laws and an unfortunate modern obsession with fashion and PS2s.

The Glorious Book for Girls is still in its early stages, and its content is a closely guarded secret, but it is likely to mirror closely the winning formula of The Dangerous Book for Boys. The boys' book's authors, who are brothers, wanted to recall the heady days of their own childhood summers, and filled the book with facts about the solar system, stories of famous battles and guides to making a pinhole camera. The book was a word-of-mouth success, published in extract form in The Independent on Sunday and flying to the top of the Amazon best-seller list in June.

"With the DBfB, it was simply a matter of collecting all the subjects that interested us then and now," Conn Iggulden told The Independent on Sunday. "We just wrote the sort of book we'd have killed for when we still had scabby knees and all knowledge was fascinating, from rockets to Nelson. I think the success of The Dangerous Book lies in the inclusion of subjects that have been allowed to fall by the wayside for boys in recent decades - battles, grammar, heroes, kings and queens, the British Empire - just to name a few. I'm not sure what would appeal to girls in quite the same way, but there's no reason why Rosemary Davidson shouldn't do well with her book."

Mr Iggulden stops short of shouting "copycat", but publishers are suckers for a proven formula, and several buyers and agents are known to be kicking themselves for not getting on board sooner. Now another book for girls, by Lucy Mangan, is also being rushed to the printers.

Ms Davidson, a translator, author and editor, also runs a charity that brings boys from Iraq to play football in the UK. She hopes soon to include girls - but clues about the manuscript suggest that she is planning to provide girls with a more sedate, and rather less dangerous, guidebook than the boys'.

"This is a book for all women who secretly - or not so secretly - loved playing French elastics, dream of making elderflower cordial and need reminding of how to play cat's cradle," says her publisher. But some girls hope that they, too, will be allowed to graze their knees occasionally. "Girls these days like to build go-karts too," says one well-known children's author.

Mr Iggulden agrees. "I've heard about Rosemary Davidson's book, of course, and I hope it isn't going to be fantastically 'girly'. I hope it goes as far as including extraordinary stories about women." He points, as an example, to one intrepid female aviator: "There's nothing girly about Amelia Earhart, after all."

A FEW OF OUR FAVOURITE THINGS

What will we find in 'The Glorious Book for Girls'? Sugar and spice and all things nice, of course. The boys' book has an entry on how to skin a rabbit; we girls would rather learn how to groom a pony. They want an account of the battle of Rorke's Drift; we want classical ballet positions, with diagrams. They want conkers, we want crochet. Yes, these gender politics are utterly antediluvian, but that's what makes it charming and ever so slightly camp. I haven't looked forward to a book this much since I was waiting for my 'Bunty' annual. Below are the kind of glories we can expect from the forthcoming book. I have tried them out, and can assure you that each is an enjoyable exercise in recapturing your lost girlhood, as well as a satisfying and improving way to spend a summer Sunday afternoon.

How To Press Flowers

1) Gather the blooms on a sunny day. They must not be wet from rain or dew.

2) Make sure your flowers are free of bugs.

3) Lay them between sheets of blotting paper. As no one has any blotting paper these days, this may prove difficult.

4) Lay the blossoms between sheets of newspaper instead.

5) Put them between the pages of a big book and then place something heavy like a rock on top.

6) Go away and build a den to pass the time.

7)A week later, when your mother asks why there is a rock in the house, you will remember about the flowers. Open the book slowly, as the dried flowers are very delicate.

NB Some people dry flowers in a microwave. This is not the ticket at all.

Brownies

If you cannot join the Brownies, you might as well make some instead. Take 12oz dark chocolate, 9oz butter, 3 eggs,

9oz brown sugar, 4oz plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder. Preheat oven to 170C and grease a 9-inch cake tin. Melt the chocolate and butter together over hot water. Whisk the eggs and add the sugar. Beat in the chocolate mixture and gently fold in the flour and baking powder. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 35 minutes.

To avoid sickness (and gain brownie points), share with friends and family.

Learning To Raise One Eyebrow

Every girl wants to be able to raise one eyebrow, just like Marlene Dietrich. It's the perfect facial expression for when you want to look supercilious or when you simply can't think of anything to say. It's also a good face to pull when a boy has done something nasty, like letting off a stink bomb.

Look in the mirror and try to keep your face still and relaxed. Now imagine a long string is pulling through your scalp and your forehead and raising your left eyebrow up from the middle. Repeat with the right eyebrow. After trying every day for the whole summer, you should be able to do it at will. People may even mistake you for a sixth-former.

French Skipping/French Elastics

1) Get a long piece of elastic (2 metres or so) from your mother or John Lewis. Sew ends together to make a large loop.

2) Ask two friends to play.

3) Ask them nicely.

4) Get them to stand opposite one another, with the elastic round their ankles.

5) Hop over the left elastic, then the right, then inside, outside, inside, and finally jump so you land on the elastics with both feet. If you stumble, you are out and it is another girl's turn. Every time you complete one sequence the elastic goes up, to the knees, thighs, hips and, finally, waist.

NB If you are an only child you can play by looping elastic around two chairs. This is rather lonely, but you always win.

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