Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: 101 Things for Girls to Do

Title: 101 Things for Girls to Do
Author: Lillie B. and Arthur C. Horth
Date: 1935
Publisher: J.B. Lippincott
ISBN: none; click here to see it on Amazon
Length: 176 pages, plus index
Illustrations: some diagrams
Quote: “The main purpose of this book is to provide girls of various ages with something to do during leisure hours.”
Boys of various ages would enjoy some of these activities too. They include leatherwork, linoleum printing, “simple jewellery work” and “mounting stones in silver,” and making candy...but you couldn’t publish this as a children’s book today. These authors assume that “girls of various ages,” though reading at a sixth-grade level, would be able to assemble a weaving loom, able to use a fretsaw, likely to have “done a little bookbinding,” and familiar with soldering.
It’s not that college “girls” would not be attracted to these hobbies—indeed, soldering might be a more wholesome thing for a college student to do than broadcasting her secrets into cyberspace. And I’m all in favor of the idea that children’s pastimes are not dictated by “age groups,” that parents are more likely to recommend the right books, toys, and crafts by observing a particular child than by reading generalizations about children of a particular age. Still, even for me, the blithe assumption that a fast-reading third grade girl who found this book in a school library could dive into metalwork as easily as she could take up watercolor painting seems a bit much. The references to “girls,” I think, give readers a certain right to expect instructions for pressed flowers, potato-head figures, and folding paper to make chorus lines of paper dolls. Those crafts are not discussed here. And far be it from me to make the decision for my niece that she’s “too young” to string beads on wire or take wind-up clocks apart, or “too old” to make chorus lines of paper dolls if that’s what amuses her, but personally I don’t think of anything that involves extremely high temperatures and nasty fumes as a pastime for children even with adult supervision.
Teenaged girls who have plenty of pocket money can have lots of fun with this book, but they’ll need teachers who can show them how the more difficult crafts are done. 101 Things for Girls to Do is strong on diagrams for embroidery stitches but weak on detailed instructions for using a fretsaw, keeping bookbinding and babysitting jobs fully separated, or preparing a place to do a bit of soldering. For parents who know how to do these things, this could be an excellent homeschooling book.

101 Things for Girls to Do is definitely in the collector's book price range by now. Although it's too late to offer it as a Fair Trade Book, the best price I can offer online purchasers is $20 for the book + $5 shipping. (But at least you can add other things to the package for that $5.)