June 13, 2007


Close Cover Before Striking: a review of The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn and Hal Iggulden (STEFAN BECK, June 13, 2007, NY Sun)

"The Dangerous Book for Boys", by the British brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden, is a big red textbook of facts and figures, diagrams and blueprints, games and projects, and history and advice, meant to encourage curiosity, self-reliance, and fearlessness in the male of the species. (Slap a brown grocery-bag dust jacket on the cover and you can read the brilliant thing undetected in math class or on the Metro-North Railroad.) [...]

If this book ought to worry anyone, it's lazy teachers, cynical marketing executives, drug-pushing psychiatrists, and anyone else who takes advantage of children and the popular nonsense about their fragility and incompetence. The only negative reviews on Amazon.com whine about glaring omissions or that the contents aren't dangerous enough. They're on the right track, but they miss the point: A taste of what's cool and challenging is all that kids need to strike out on their own bruised, scraped, sometimes concussed journeys of discovery.

That belief is what makes the Igguldens two wild and subversive guys. They've bequeathed our country a textbook for boys who hope to become men, whereas the present system produces boys who can only hope to become older, fatter, more dependent boys. The Igguldens detail the rules of soccer (along with stickball and rugby), but in their section on word origins they also give the etymology and definition of "hooligan," not to mention "quisling," "thug," and "assassin."

And "chivalry." The book is a deeply moral one, which recognizes that just because boys will be boys doesn't mean they have to be stupid or malicious ones. It's never too early to memorize useful Latin phrases or Shakespeare quotations or poems by Kipling and Shelley. Of "Ozymandias," they write, in their lapidary textbook style, "This poem was written as a commentary on human arrogance." Your average elementary school teacher would have complained that the vocabulary is too difficult, or the verse lacking in relevance, which means it isn't about drugs or teen pregnancy. The Igguldens, like most boys, know better.

...the art design is so enchanting you can't help wanting it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 13, 2007 8:21 AM
Comments for this post are closed.