With Handy Dad, Todd Davis—father of two and former HGTV host—constructs summer fun with a dual purpose: quality time with Dad, plus hands-on creativity and problem-solving skills in the real world. Lest this sound too didactic, listen to some of the 25 primo projects on offer: water balloon launcher, slingshot, climbing wall, zip line, lava lamp, dollhouse and water-pressurized rocket. Just how handy does a dad have to be? The presence of power tools is a good indicator: If he owns them, he’s fine.

Basic skills will suffice for most projects, some of which are designed so the kid can do part of the work anyway. For more elaborate goals like the BMX ramp, half-pipe and rope bridge, the handy level is ratcheted up considerably. Ever wary of gender bias, I am pleased to report the photos show both boys and girls at work and play, making a clear statement that this is not just a book for fathers and sons. And even if Mom is the handy one in the family, no Dad will be able to resist playing with this stuff once it’s built.

MODERN GIRL'S SURVIVAL KIT
It should be no surprise that The Modern Girl’s Guide to Sticky Situations is sized to stash in a purse, because author Jane Buckingham (The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life) thinks of everything, and she knows a survival kit should be perfectly portable. She designed this chunky compendium of quick-fixes “for the deserving gal with the best intentions who gets caught in sticky situations,” or in other words, pretty much all of us. Whether advising readers on how to deal with a ripped hem or an IRS audit, a clogged toilet or a drunk date, she offers the sanest options with efficiency and flair. The range is appropriately vast (and vastly appropriate), given the frequency of fixes in which the Modern Girl finds herself: Included are all manner of faux pas (except the titular one of confusing “girl” for “woman”), mistakes, accidents, wardrobe malfunctions, misunderstandings, physical ailments and quandaries of even the most sensitive nature. All are organized by situation—love, weddings, home, family, parties, beauty/ fashion/shopping, money, work and “on the go”—and indexed to be blessedly searchable in the privacy of one’s own home (or handbag).

TOP PICK
Gardening is its own reward, right? Playing in the dirt, coaxing new life from seed, setting out flowers to craft our own little paradise. But what do we usually get for our efforts? Maybe one flush of color in the spring or summer, when nursery-grown flats easily please the eye. What if, however, our yards, borders and curbs could be thoughtfully planned with an easy-to-maintain mix of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and even fruits and vegetables, and struc- tured so that every season swells with color, form, texture and scent? Paradise, indeed, but humanly possible with Stephanie Cohen and Jennifer Benner’s guidance in The Nonstop Garden. The authors reveal basic design strategies, detailed plant portraits and 10 simple plans, plus advice on ornamentation, containers, structure, zones and seasonal interest. The photographs are gorgeous and inspirational: further evidence that more diversity and forethought can make a garden lovely—and manageable—all year ’round. 

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