The Dangerous Book for Boys represents a healthy swing of the pendulum away from 20th century post-Christian sensitive new-age-guy feminist parenting. Me? opinionated?
Seriously, this is a book that works on many levels. If you have a pre-teen boy in the house, I can almost guarantee he’ll like this book. And even if he doesn’t like it at first, you should still have one lying around for him to pick up. Sooner or later he will.
The book is a sort of almanac of “boy’s lore.” The typography, the illustrations, and the article selections are laid out in a sort of cross between the Boy Scout Manual and the old World Book Encyclopedia. The entries are an eclectic mix of lists & lore on topics that boys naturally gravitate to, like “Famous Battles” and “Extraordinary Stories.” There are also some practical academic tips like “Latin Phrases Every Boy Should Know” and three articles on “Understanding Grammar.” But these are not what boys will look at first.
Boys will most likely gravitate at first to “First Aid,” “Five Pen-and-Paper Games,” “Secret Inks,” “Spies – Codes and Ciphers,” “Making Crystals,” and “Making a Go-Cart.” Also included are the rules for “Stickball,” “Table Football,” and a table of the winning hands at Poker. Near and dear to my heart is the list of “Books Every Boy Should Read” at the end, which includes both Lewis and Tolkien as well as Kipling, Mark Twain, Douglas Adams, and Ian Fleming. I’m less happy with the inclusion of J.K.Rowling, but willing to overlook it and politely disagree.
I do recommend this book for homeschooling families who want to delight in the boyhood of boys. The book is just plain fun to read, with quite a few humorous passages. An example: Point one in the Advice About Girls:
1. It is important to listen. Human beings are often very self-centered and like to talk about themselves. In addition, it’s an easy subject if someone is nervous. it is good advice to listen closely — unless she has also been given this advice, in which case an uneasy silence could develop, like two owls sitting together.
2. Be careful with humor. It is very common for boys to try to impress girls with a string of jokes, each one more desperate than the last. One joke, perhaps, and then a long silence while she talks about herself . . .
The authors are two English brothers (who obviously had great fun together as boys), Conn and Hal Iggulden. Conn Iggulden is also the author of the four-volume historical fiction series on Julius Caesar that I recommended earlier this month.
The Dangerous Book for Boys is a well-bound hardback that sells for $24.95. It came out in May of 2007, and in less than a year has already become a classic and a great gift book. You can order it direct from Greenleaf Press.
Sensing a “Good Thing,” the publisher has, of course, brought out a companion book for pre-teen girls in the same style titled The Daring Book for Girls. Printed prominently on the back, in large type, is the invitation (warning?): “For every girl with an Independent spirit and a nose for trouble, here is the no-boys-allowed guide to adventure.”
It is refreshing to read a book that acknowledges that girls’ interests are different from boys’ and celebrates that fact. There are some commonalities (States, Capitals, Greek & Latin vocabulary) but almost everything here is similar in style, but different in content. The games described are Double Dutch Jump Rope and Softball and Slumber Party Games (quite wholesome). The story selections are on Queens of the Ancient World and Women Spies. The projects are Friendship Bracelets, Watercolor Painting, and Roller Skating. I can’t speak personally, of course, but my younger six daughters looked it over and pronounced it “interesting.” I plan to leave it lying around for them to discover and enjoy on their own.
Both books put a smile on my face and made me think that childhood can still be fun and wholesome, and doesn’t require electronic devices to be enjoyed. Recommended for these and many other reasons.