Game On

Games of Many Nations

Submitter: Found this little gem on my cart when I was pulling books that have not circulated in the last 3 years. After randomly flipping pages and reading a few games aloud to my coworker, we decided we had to send it in as a submission. Fun for all ages! (Sadly we will be withdrawing this one so someone can scoop it up in our next book sale.)

Holly: The first game pictured below, Denmark’s “Bird’s Alive” has people passing paper or a stick ON FIRE around a circle until it goes out IN SOMEONE’S HAND. Denmark readers, please weigh in. Is this a thing?

Games of Many Nations front flap

Games of Many Nations - Denmark

Games of Many Nations - Italy

Games of Many Nations - Balito, Le Bocce


  1. Love it! And please note that while the Danish are mad*, they’re not the only ones, because it clearly says that this game is similar to your own game Jack’s Alive. 😉
    * as a Swede I am obliged to say this, it is a Nordic must to mock our neighbours soundly at every opportunity.

    1. Birds Alive sounds like a good way to introduce your friends to the fun and games of a working fire.

  2. Living in a town full of old Italians, I have to say I’ve seen bocce, but the “Chicken Market” game is fascinating…. 🙂 “You’re a good little chicken…”

  3. I have never heard of Jack’s Alive, but it is a “thing,” a child’s party game. Although “we” call for a stick, not a piece of paper.
    I thought Chicken Market was going the way of Duck-Duck-Goose, where you just chase one another.

  4. When we played that game in my (American) college, we used a match, and we called it “matches.” The person who “lost” then had to answer questions truthfully from all other players (sort of like truth or dare). Generally, no one was injured, because you would blow out or shake out the match before that happened.

    1. Gee, students I knew played a similar game only the item passed around was a hand-rolled cigarette of not-tobacco LOL, from which everyone took a puff until it was too small to handle. The last one sometimes did get singed unfortunately. No truth or dare was involved although I believe following the game the players often went on quests for food. My understanding is that this is or was a game played in many countries.

  5. I read about “Baste the Bear” in a Victorian era boys book, which claimed it was played in the Royal Navy.
    “Bird’s Alive” makes me think of that old jingle for the notorious bum wine Thunderbird.

  6. I played a lot of games at parties and in classrooms as a kid, like Hot Potato. None of them involved fire or a real hot potato. On the other hand, lawn darts were still perfectly okay and a big summer outdoor activity.
    What exactly is “Jack’s Alive”? an American type of game?
    I once heard of a game called “Chubby Bunnies” where kids stuff their cheeks with marshmallows and it’s actually really dangerous and a kid once choked to death while playing this in class with the teacher and other kids. They warned you not to let your kids play this game. It was on Oprah.

    1. Our kids played Chubby Bunnies in the 1990s. The whole neighborhood played Chubby Bunnies in the 1990s, including the adults (yup, even me, the Safety Mom.) We were a fun-loving bunch.

  7. “an extensive index makes it possible to locate the games either by country or by name”
    Wow. This is not at all a standard feature of many books. How extensive can the index even be – 149 games and 28 countries…

  8. God, I want this book! I’ll have to go trawling through Alibris again…

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