Go Outside and Play!

Parent Bloggers NetworkParent Blogger Network Review:  The Dangerous Book for Boys

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.

Good times.

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 reviews at my new review blog, Review Planet.


7 Responses to Go Outside and Play!

  1. canape says:

    I was so hoping you would quote some of the chapter on “Girls.” It didn’t take a couple of glasses of wine for that chapter to be hilarious and totally ridiculous. And annoying.

    You are a kind reviewer, Whymommy.

  2. whymommy says:

    Eh, I really liked the book. Sure, there are one or two things I would have done differently if I had written it … but I didn’t write it. And, for me, it comes down to the question, is this book worth reading? Will it contribute in some way to our world? For me, the answer is yes. Unabashedly yes. (Remember the fun that Lovely had making airplanes with her Daddy? That was awesome!)

  3. Spacemom says:

    Hmm, I have two adventurous girls. I wonder if this would be good for them (as my oldest wants to build a see-saw in the front yard on Sunday)

  4. canape says:

    Hmmm. I can teach Lovely how to make paper airplanes in much less time than it took to try and explain why someone would have written the chapter about “Girls.” The poor book suffers greatly from the authors’ inability to write to people instead of their idea of boys.

    You are right though in that the lessons contribute something. I just won’t be buying it for my stepdaughter or recommending it to anyone with daughters. I would hate to give away the “secrets” of how boys will pursue them 😉

  5. whymommy says:

    I wish every kid had someone who would teach them to make paper airplanes, tie knots, and identify the constellations ….

  6. […] much as I liked reading The Dangerous Book for Boys, I’m also committed to raising boys who are nice to play with.  You know what I mean:  kind […]

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