The Kids Cottage Games Book

by Jane Drake, Ann Love, Heather Collins,
176 pages,
ISBN: 1550744674

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Children`s Books
by Allison Sutherland

You haul the kids up to the cottage, only to have them sit around uttering the "B" word-"I'm bored"-as relationships deteriorate and squabbling becomes increasingly acrimonious in tone and trivial in subject-matter. You become irritable too. You suggest activities. You suggest games. You try to remember what you played when you were that age. You draw on your memories of childhood, and you buy books like this one, or its companion volumes, The Kids Cottage Handbook and The Kids Campfire Book.

The Game Book is meant to be read by children themselves, but adults will also find it invaluable for clear and reliable rules of such standards as Dominoes, Capture-the-Flag, Checkers, or Double Solitaire. Anyone who has had to wrestle with Scarne on Cards or Hoyle's Book of Games because they've forgotten what a royal flush is or how to score at horseshoes will be grateful for this book. There are also some new wrinkles to old favourites: nocturnal hide-and-seek with flashlights sounds enchanting, though the mosquito level after dark at most cottages might make it a mixed pleasure.

The most challenging part of keeping groups of children entertained at the cottage (or anywhere else) is encouraging activities that appeal to the finer rather than the baser of human instincts. It might have been useful if the winner-loser aspect of zero-sum games had been de-emphasized and "Is everyone having fun?" had been stressed. So often one or two of the group are always left trailing, which is no way to spend a holiday. Croquet is a particularly lethal game, for example, and extremely hard on immature tempers; a readers' advisory might have been added to the rules.

More seriously, Drake and Love omit any mention of that most serious temptation to be beastly: children that are younger and inevitably more inept than their companions. The illustrations of the book are intriguing. Mixed in politically correct proportions of gender and ethnicity, the children are remarkably homogeneous in age. What are so many nine-to-eleven-year-olds doing all in one place? If they're at home, where are their siblings? If they are at camp, where are their counsellors? 

A. S.


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