Monday, November 14, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Build your own fort, igloo, and other hangouts by Tammy Enz

 This series, Build it yourself, seems like a great idea. I'm always looking for books that will inspire kids to DO SOMETHING other than just "hang out". Of course there was the required warning to have an adult help with "saws and sharp knives" but I was excited when I saw the "gather your gear" section that instructed readers to gather tools ranging from pencils and tape measures to drills, metal snips, sandpaper, and pliers.

Then I read the book. Oh, the disappointment. Duct tape is really the only tool used. Nothing, heaven forbid, "dangerous" is actually employed.

The projects are "soda box brick fort" which uses soda boxes and duct tape. Kids are instructed to wear rubber gloves for the Tie-dye tepee. You do get to pound in a couple nails for the edible garden fort, but readers are tipped to put an old rug inside the fort to keep their clothes clean. Umbrella tent? Ooo, scissors. Leafy hut? Well, it's not mentioned but I suppose you could cut the branches rather than just mysteriously find "6 straight, clean branches" but make sure you wear gloves to protect your hands from the wire. Colorful snow castle? Make sure adults help you lift the heavier buckets of snow. Glowing igloo? Don't forget that battery-powered candle. Fire is dangerous!

Of course I don't want kids to be hurt. But what's wrong with a little dirt or a few scratches? These books are recommended for ages 9-12; a nine year old should be able to get his or her clothes dirty, use a hammer, pound in nails, use a saw, pliers, drill...basically all those tools they gathered at the beginning and NEVER USED. There's really only two structures in this book anyways, the tee-pee and the block building. All can be built with some tape and string and are the kind of fort a six year old would think was cool.

When I was a tween, we built precarious forts in trees, that were basically planks across branches. We built forts out of old logs that creaked alarmingly when you walked on them. We cut down thorn vines to make play spaces. Without supervision. Hey, guess what? I'm still alive and so are all my siblings.

Verdict: As a sample of today's over-protective culture that bleeds the life out of children's play, this is a perfect book. I won't be buying it though; I'll be looking for a book that shows kids how to actually make something with real tools.

ISBN: 9781429654364; Published January 2011 by Capstone; Borrowed from the library


Playing by the book said...

As someone who is just writing up a post today which features my 6 year old using a rather large saw and my 3 year old let loose (almost) with a hammer, I understand where you're coming from! Thanks for the warning.

Jennifer said...

I was sooo frustrated, because this series could have been so cool! Most craft books are of the "what you can do with paper and paint" variety and I was so excited to find something with outdoor activities kids could do on their own. But this was just...pathetic.