BookBrowse Reviews The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden, Hal Iggulden

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The Dangerous Book for Boys

by Conn Iggulden, Hal Iggulden

The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden, Hal Iggulden X
The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden, Hal Iggulden
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  • Published:
    May 2007, 288 pages

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The ultimate book for boys; a top-10 bestseller in the UK for a year. Now in the USA

From the book jacket: The bestselling book for every boy from eight to eighty, covering essential boyhood skills such as building tree houses, learning how to fish, finding true north, and even answering the age old question of what the big deal with girls is. In this digital age there is still a place for knots, skimming stones and stories of incredible courage. This book recaptures Sunday afternoons, stimulates curiosity, and makes for great father-son activities. The brothers Conn and Hal have put together a wonderful collection of all things that make being young or young at heart fun—building go-carts and electromagnets, identifying insects and spiders, and flying the world's best paper airplanes.

Comment: Last summer, when Conn and Hal Iggulden published their unapologetically nostalgic The Dangerous Book for Boys in the UK they expected trouble from those who would take offense to their testosterone-fueled field guide to being a boy, with advice on everything from how to build a paper airplane, to famous battles, to how to skin a rabbit. Quite the opposite occurred - their hefty compendium has been a permanent resident on the top 10 UK hardcover non-fiction list for the last year, spending 16 weeks at #1.

Topping this achievement comes Conn Iggulden's latest success as the author of Wolf of the Plains about Gengis Khan (just published in the USA as Gengis: Birth of an Empire), which almost immediately went to #1 on the UK hardcover fiction lists - the first time that an author has held the top position on both the hardcover fiction and nonfiction lists at the same time!

The Dangerous Book for Boys is now available in the USA with about 30% of the content rewritten for the USA market; out goes the Battle of Waterloo, in comes The Alamo and Gettysburg; Naval flag codes have been replaced by Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary; and so on and so forth. Some of the highlights of the American edition include:

The Greatest Paper Airplane in the World; The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know; Stickball; Slingshots; Fossils; Building a Treehouse; Making a Bow and Arrow; Fishing; Timers and Tripwires; Baseball's "Most Valuable Players"; Spies-Codes and Ciphers; Cloud Formations; Mountains of the U.S; Navigation; Skimming Stones; Making a Periscope; The Ten Commandments and Common US Trees.

There's even a short but salient section on girls including droll advice such as:

If you see a girl in need of help - unable to lift something, for example - do not taunt her. Approach the object and greet her with a cheerful smile, whilst surreptitiously testing the weight of the object. If you find you can lift it, go ahead. If you can't, try sitting on it and engaging her in conversation.

The Iggulden brothers open a window to an almost lost world where skinned knees are an acceptable risk in the pursuit of adventure; where tying devious knots, deciphering enemy code and making water bombs are more interesting than computer screens; where the rough-and-tumble of being a boy is not a health hazard but a necessary part of growing up; and where over-protectedness is a greater danger than a penknife.

Society is beginning to wake up to the fact that boys in mixed schools are falling behind girls and are increasingly outnumbered at college. Could this perhaps be because the education system has been so busy treating boys and girls identically that it has done a disservice to both groups? No amount of political correctness changes the fact that most boys like to play a little rough and that they're riveted by heroic tales, battle and adventure. Our 13-year-old boy is polite, civilized and caring, but he is still fascinated by the gory bits of history, and loves his copy of The Dangerous Book For Boys, proudly presented to him by his English grandparents some months ago.

Of course, there are some detractors who resent that the book dares to address an exclusively male audience, but the public are voting with their feet on both sides of the Atlantic and in Australia.
Fifteen years ago John Gray's Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus was a huge hit because it recognized and embraced the differences between the sexes. Perhaps it's about time to recognize that for the average preadolescent male, girls aren't from Venus, they exist in an entirely different galaxy - far, far away!

Obviously, the Igguldens have been asked if they plan an equivalent book for girls; they don't, but many spin off versions are appearing so no doubt there will be countless variations on a theme for both sexes before too long. However, at the end of the day, nobody's stopping the girls from reading The Dangerous Book For Boys - its title hasn't stopped our 11-year-old daughter from dipping into the parts that appeal to her from time to time.

"I think we've become aware that the whole "health and safety" overprotective culture isn't doing our sons any favors. Boys need to learn about risk. They need to fall off things occasionally, or--and this is the important bit--they'll take worse risks on their own. If we do away with challenging playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up with safer boys--we end up with them walking on train tracks. In the long run, it's not safe at all to keep our boys in the house with a Playstation. It's not good for their health or their safety." - Conn Iggulden.

Useful link: The Dangerous Book For Boys website, which includes a delightfully amateur 2-minute video illustrating highlights from the book.

This review first ran in the June 7, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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