Book Review: The Dangerous Book for Boys
“Don’t worry about genius and don’t worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination…You hold your future in your own hands. Never waiver in this belief…Be honest, be loyal, be kind. Remember the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish.” Although this is the summer of Great Britain’s J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter, and the above snippets could have been advice to the young wizard, they are not, in fact. Rather these snippets are from the opening quote in The Dangerous Book for Boys by British authors Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden. The quote itself was written by Sir Frederick Treves, Bart, KCVO, CB, Sergeant in Ordinary to HM the King, Surgeon in Ordinary to HRH Prince of Wales in 1903. A title that, to an American like me, sounds like it could belong to a character in Harry Potter, but is in fact real.
I read the 1st American edition of The Dangerous Book for Boys. It has a retro red cover with big gold and black letters and interior end-papers made of a swirling gold marbled paper. You can learn how to make such gold marbled paper on page 111. And that is exactly the point of the book. It is a book about how to do stuff, which is, I think, part of the appeal of the Harry Potter books. Harry and his friends get to do stuff and have adventures. Would Harry or Ron say, “I don’t have time to deal with that Death Eater right now because I am in the middle of a video game?” Uh, no.
But Harry and Ron might pick up the Dangerous Book for Boys to read about The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know (page 9), Building a Treehouse (page 21), Making Crystals (page 73), Timers and Tripwires (page 48), Insects and Spiders (page 83), Latin Phrases Every Boy Should Know (page 195), Star Maps: What You See When You Look Up (page182), Famous Battles—Part One (page 53) and Famous Battles—Part Two (Page 114), Pocket Light (page 143), Secret Inks (page 149), and How to Play Stickball (page 18).
Sandwiched between understanding Grammar—Part Two (page 105) and Marbling Paper (page 111) is approximately one page on Girls (page 109) which might help Harry and Ron understand Hermione better. The Iggulden’s note that girls are different from boys. “By this, we do no not mean the physical differences, more the fact that they remain unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Morse code. Some will be impressed, of course, but as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.”
The back cover of The Dangerous Book for Boys claims it is “The perfect book for every boy from eight to eighty.” Perhaps this is why I am familiar with the poems and crafts in this book having learned them from my Dad and uncles who are now in their seventies and eighties. Last summer, before this book appeared, I did a paper airplane and table football activity with the teens and it was a hit with both the boys and girls, but especially the boys. Anyone who knows me knows that I am big on using arts & crafts in teen programs to combine experiential learning and reading. Don’t just read about how to “Make the Greatest Paper Airplane in the World” (page 2) -- do it!
Cautions: The Dangerous Book for Boys contains a note to parents on the title page stating that the book contains activities which may be dangerous if not done exactly as directed or may be inappropriate for young children and that all of the activities should be carried out under adult supervision only, followed by the authors and publishers disclaiming liability. Read it. Also, the book is not politically correct and emphasizes the traditional literary canon.
That being said, I am now off to learn how to make a water bomb out of paper and to find out why it is impossible to fold a piece of paper in half more than seven times (page 98).