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I love getting paid to read, so today was a nice day…at least for the few minutes it took me to read Mark Lovett Wells’, “Daddy, Can We Play in the Workshop?” This cute little book written for young children alternates between simple text and black and white photos, and shares the story of Mateo (who appears to be about five or six years old) and his father, and a box of hand tools the grandfather gave to the father upon Mateo’s birth.

Mateo wants to play in the shop, but Daddy’s power tools are just too loud and dangerous. So at night, while Mateo is sleeping, Daddy pulls out the box and investigates what’s inside. He has to teach himself to use a hand drill, but afterward, he shares the new skill with his son, and the two get to spend time together in the shop. As the back of the book states, “This story is about a father and son who discover the joy of working wood with hand tools.”

Now I have to admit that, as I was reading, the feminist lurking in the back of my brain whispered something along the lines of, “Why can’t Mommy teach Mateo, hmmmm?” But, the box is addressed to Daddy and Mateo, so I’m tamping down that reaction.

At $9.99 for 20 pages of text and photos, “Daddy, Can We Play in the Workshop?” costs about 40 cents a page. At first glance, that may seem a little steep , I don’t have kids, and I didn’t start really woodworking until an advanced age, but Chris’s stories about working in the shop with his youngest daughter always make me misty (and make me wish I’d pestered my grandfather into showing me what he knew). So I’m guessing that for a parent and child, those shop memories would be priceless. If you have young kids, I encourage you to take a look at this book (just be sure to tell them that mommies and daughters can play in the shop, too!).

– Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. If you want to hook kids on woodworking, I think helping them to make simple projects is the way to go. When I started woodworking, the most rewarding thing was having built something. Heck , I remember how proud I was of the candleholders I turned in my one and only shop class in the sixth grade (and I wonder if my mom still has them). Our “I Can Do That” projects, which are free on our web site, are a good place to start. And birdhouses are always fun , the projects in the new “Easy to Build Birdhouses” would be perfect.


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  • Gye Greene

    Gender and Woodworking: I asked the author about doing a sequel where a female cousin comes in to town and wants to build something, and the author said he’d take it under advisement.

    On the one hand, I’m all for cross-gender role modelling (e.g., male hairdressers, female fighter pilots). OTOH, what’s the proportion of men vs. women doing woodworking? 90%-10%? 95%-5%? (All the photos I’ve seen of WW shows shows 3-10 GUYS gawking at the tool demo…) So this book is actually a fairly representative scenario, as well as (pragmatically!) catering to the target demographic.

    DISCLAIMER: At 2yo, my daughter using a handsaw (with help!). She’s now 5yo, and knows the difference between a hammer and a mallet.

    My 2c. 🙂

    –GG

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