Ripping Things to Do by Jane Brocket

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Ripping Things to Do by Jane Brocket

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Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jason Mark Curley
Reviewed by Jason Mark Curley
Summary: A fantastic activities book that you'll want to steal from your kids.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 978-0340980965

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Right from the very moment I opened the envelope this book was delivered in, I had the distinct feeling this would be a real gem of a book, and how right I was. Though, initially, I was reminded of the Iggulden brothers' Dangerous Book for Boys series, this book has a very different ethos, even though the subject matter overlaps somewhat unavoidably making it bear comparison.

The basic idea is to look through children's literature to find ideas for adventures and fun. I think the example that is easiest to understand is that of Pooh Sticks. I think few of us who read The House at Pooh Corner didn't want to go and find a bridge over a river where we could play it ourselves, and can't resist doing it today any time the opportunity arises – the last time I played was on the Isis at Christchurch Meadow with another Pooh fan.

This book really does cover a range of activities, from spy and secret agent activities: using codes, making invisible ink, bugging rooms; to cooking, briefly stopping to remind us of The Petie Burkis Special from the classic Betsy Byars novel, The Midnight Fox. Other chapters look at different age ranges, activities that can be done in specific seasons. There are even ideas for popular poems to be remembered.

The book is also interspersed with some fantastic artwork, full page diagrams of things like semaphore signals, Morse code, star maps, instructional guides on how to make a hammock (including how to tie the various types of knots), build a tree house and much much more.

One of the issues I think this book will have is that it almost completely ignores contemporary children's literature, though I guess that may have been the point. A while ago I reviewed The Trap by Sarah Wray, and I think that would have been a worthy reference for inclusion in the Spy section.

So, though I think this is aimed at more bookish children, I think most children will get at least something to interest them from within these pages. Having said that, unless your children are particularly bookish, I would go for the Dangerous books series in preference to this. However, I think there is another audience for this book – adults. I had a great time reading through this, being reminded of books that I'd forgotten and thinking about secret gardening and being a scarecrow for a day. So that's my advice really, buy The Dangerous Book for the kids, and buy this one for yourself.

All of this makes it hard to give this book a score. I think I'll be awkward and give it four stars for the kids and five stars for the rest of us who wish we still were.

Thanks to the publishers for sending me this review copy.

Another book for adults wanting to reminisce about the games we used to play is The Games We Played by Susan Kelleher.

Booklists.jpg Ripping Things to Do by Jane Brocket is in the Bookbag's Christmas Gift Recommendations 2009.

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