Today’s post is a brief break from our special Solar System Week here at Toddler Planet. I was asked a few weeks ago by the Parent Bloggers Network to review The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden, and I’m up first on the review list!
First, let me say, I love this book. The Dangerous Book for Boys is full of fascinating and fun mini-chapters on everything from tying knots to buiding a treehouse, with lots of fun excursions like great battles in history along the way. After taking a look at the promotional web site, I was excited right off the bat, and I had a great time thumbing through the book the day it arrived. Since then, I’ve had a chance to read through almost all of the sections, and, while that’s certainly not necessary, it sure was fun. I was reminded of tons of great activites for kids, from developing codes and secret inks to building a go-cart out of an old baby buggy. The book is full of things that the neighborhood kids and I used to do on weekends or long summer days when I was a child, and it was delightful to be reminded of those adventures.
Of course, as the authors state in the introduction, “I didn’t have this book when I was a” kid. We just went outside and mucked around. Remember just mucking around? Mom would shoo us out of the house, saying, “Go outside and play!” while she started on dinner or stripped all the bed linens for laundry day. We would troop out of the house, go find some friends, and take something apart or put something together. Or ride bikes down the hill (without helmets), or tramp through the foundation of the new house that they’re building over in the field. Yes, the one with nails scattered all over, fresh concrete, and a random assortment of building materials and lunch wrappers left where they’d been dropped during the day’s work.
While those days may be gone for those of us too old to sell girl scout cookies, they’re just beginning for our children. This book is also a great sourcebook for activities for kids today, and encouragement for just getting outdoors in the fresh air, catching lightening bugs, fishing, comparing insect carcasses, skipping stones, and watching the clouds go by.
There are good sections highlighting simple experiments such as building a battery, making an electromagnet, and fireproofing cloth; identification sections for elements from bugs to stars; good questions to ask about the rotation of the earth and why the sky is blue; and so much more. More, meaning diverse topics such as the finer points of basic grammar, table football, making a paper hat or an airplane that will win contests, learning naval flag codes, navajo talk, or pirate symbols … the list goes on and on.
I loved nearly everything about this book, but I was put off by two things, both of which I think could have been remedied if the authors had written the book more explicitly for a wider audience of today. The first issue has to do with materials. Too many projects called for archaic bits and pieces that hardly anyone has lying around anymore. Like a Prince Albert tobacco tin (remember those?). Or old-fashioned baby carriage wheels, with a working axle. Although some Grandpas may have these things way in the back of their Narnian workshops/garages, many kids who will pick up this book won’t have such materials close at hand. I hope they can figure out how to improvise. Like we did. I bet they will. The other issue hit me smack in the face the moment I reached for my copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys. Boys. While I still loved the book and will encourage my kids with it, I wish it didn’t have to say “for boys.” Couldn’t they just have named it something more gender-neutral and still have it sound adventurous? Luckily, the title doesn’t affect the writing inside, except for one small chapter, titled, “Girls.”
In sum, this book is a fantastic read as a book of memories, a book of suggestions, or even just a book to leave out when your kids or their visiting cousins are looking for a way to fill a long summer afternoon. From crafts to cards to first aid, they’re sure to find something to do, and learn even more along the way.
The book reaches American bookstores on May 1. Grab your copy when it comes out tomorrow … and get outside and play!
As a special bonus, Parent Blogger Network is giving away a two-man tent (there the nomenclature is again — why isn’t it a two-person tent?) to one lucky reader/commenter on their launch post. You can find more reviews of this book there, and more of my regular writings over at my other blog, Toddler Planet.