“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.” – James Russell Lowell
Jacaranda blossoms decorate the sidewalks like confetti from an all purple parade. School’s out or will be over soon. The days are bright and cool. And Father’s Day is around the corner. It’s June in the Valley, the time for books that kids and dads, uncles, grandfathers and special guys can share.
The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It by Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D. and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D. This almost-pocket-sized guide to rambunctious, rowdy play is a heady antidote to overprotective parenting, shortened or nonexistent playtimes, too much homework and too many videogames. The authors contend that spontaneous physical activity is good for all children, even those with special needs, and creates closeness, builds confidence, and helps with problem behavior. The activities they outline are designed for parents and children to do together and come with illustrations and age recommendations. I like the general drift of the book and the authors’ notion that children need time with parents who are tuned in to their feelings and needs: “When in doubt, fall over. Falling is always good for a laugh and helps your child feel more confident, because it means they are not always the one who is smaller, weaker, and more helpless.”
Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share by Ken Denmead. This compendium of scientific, technological, problem-solving projects is meant for Dads and kids, geeky Dads and kids in particular. From making your own cartoons, board games, cuff links, light-up duct tape wallet, to composting, hydroponics model building with cake, to constructing a night kite, an outdoor movie theater, and a Slip ‘N Slide to making an exploding drink, this admirably organized guide is sure to make family time interesting and wildly fun.
Handy Dad In The Great Outdoors: More Than 30 Super-Cool Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids by Todd Davis is wildly inviting. The author’s and Jared Cruce’s photographs made me want to plunge into these projects right away. Activities are ranked by difficulty level, and come with clear directions and lists of materials. Davis covers the basics of choosing best campsite, setting up a tent, building a campfire, building a biodegradable latrine, a survival kit and a solar shower. Less predictable activities include making a torch, trail blazing and trail marking, shadow puppet shows, panning for gold, making a daisy-chain headband, tarp surfing, lizard catching, tepee making, and bridging a stream.
Campfire Cookery: Adventuresome Recipes and Other Curiosities For the Great Outdoors by Sarah Huck and Jaimee Young offers recipes fine and beautiful meals prepared over or near a campfire. This is not your beans-cooked-in-a-can cookbook. Instead the authors provide basic and gourmet instruction on fire starting and dousing and a list of necessary equipment (cast iron skillet, Dutch oven, cutting board, etc.) for cooking and living outdoors. I especially like the connoisseur’s guide to firewood, and the recipes for Blood Orange & Date Vinaigrette, Smoky Green Olive & Almond Relish. Chinese Tea Eggs, Campfire Cocktails (“Witch in the Woods” and “Firefly” sound good), Dandelion and Wild Spinach Salad, Lamb Tagine with Preserved Lemon, and Cast Iron Crumpets. Included among the lovely recipes are facts about duck calling, stargazing, camp songs, foraging and other fascinating outdoor lore. Of course there is a serious chapter on S’Mores, including Dulce de Leche & Fleur de Sel S’Mores, and Honeyed Chocolate Orange. This book should make any foodie Dad a very happy camper!
Jo Perry has a Ph.D. in English, taught literature and writing, and worked as a college administrator and as a television writer and producer. She is a reviewer for BookBrowse.com and is an ongoing contributor to kidsLA Magazine for which she writes about the city, children’s books, and conducts interviews. For two years she wrote the Kids’ Book Club column for the L.A. Times’ Kids’ Reading Room page.