The Girl’s Guide to Building a Fort is about much more than simply fort building. This all-purpose reference book covers a spectrum of indoor and outdoor projects for adventurous girls. Young readers can work their way through the book’s various sections in any order or skip to topics of interest. The book’s detailed table of contents makes it simple for readers to find informational sections or hands-on activities in each of the six “Let’s Be…” sections: Scientists, Trailblazers, Athletes, Artists, Builders, and Chefs. The end of the book features cute badges readers can earn for completing a certain amount of activities from a section, one activity from each section, and some other special options.
The Girl’s Guide to Building a Fort has many strengths, including the fact that it features a wide range of information and instructions for participating in diverse activities, both indoors and outdoors. The instructions for hands-on activities are thorough, and the book gives comprehensive information about a huge range of topics. There is something here to interest just about everyone. In addition, the author focuses on a good mix of traditional and less well-known activities. For example, the athletics section describes sports like softball, but also some unique games like disc bowling, and beanbag toss, and even some games that wouldn’t typically be considered sports like tongue twisters and card games. The book also includes good checklists that can be used to prepare for various activities like camping or cooking, and a helpful list of books for further reading.
Unfortunately this book has a major weakness in its lack of illustrations where they are really needed to provide clarity. Alexis Seabrook’s artwork is primarily decorative, and while it adds to the book aesthetically, it will not help readers understand the complex instructions given for some tasks, or to identify the plants and birds described. Readers really need diagrams if they are to learn how to build a bench, make different types of paper airplanes, how to tie a variety of knots, or how to complete the numerous other hands-on projects described in this book. Most young readers are unlikely to master these tasks through written descriptions alone and will probably abandon the book in favor of material with diagrams or perhaps a video that provides the same instruction. In addition, Fieri occasionally uses terms a young reader would be unlikely to know, which could provide further frustration. The title of the book is also misleading, and some readers who might be interested in the diverse topics included might never even pick up the book, believing it to be only about forts.
It is unfortunate that a book with such a strong premise, empowerment of girls through learning a wide range of do-it-yourself activities, is weakened so much by its lack of appropriate illustrations. Were the book to include diagrams or even photographs for the hands-on activities and the sections where plants and animals are identified, it would be a very useful book. In its current form, though, I don’t believe many young readers will find it helpful. They will likely need to seek additional information in order to be successful at most of the activities the book includes, and young people who are dedicated enough to an activity to take that step are likely to find their own information about the activity without this book. Collections looking for this type of book would be better served by best-sellers such as The Daring Book for Girls and The Dangerous Book for Boys. However, one can certainly argue that in the 21st Century, books which separate knowledge for young people by gender are not needed. In any case, The Girl’s Guide to Building a Fort is one to pass on.
The Girl’s Guide to Building a Fort
By Jenny Fieri
Art by Alexis Seabrook
Andrews McNeel Publishing, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)