May 18, 2007, - 4:34 pm
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a very interesting story about how a good, old-fashioned book that teaches boys to be boys . . . and men is racing up the book sales charts.
“The Dangerous Book for Boys,” by English brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden, is aimed at boys around the age of ten and teaches them how to be boys, men, and gentlemen. And it brings back a sense of adventure and the outdoors to their lives. That’s refreshing in this age of boys knitting clubs, men scrapbooking, and other attempted blurring of the sexes that really aren’t good for society:
So here are instructions on how to skip stones, fold a paper hat, make a battery, and hunt and cook a rabbit. It includes a description of the Battle of Thermopylae, but also how to play texas hold em poker, and use the phrases “Carpe diem” and “Curriculum vitae.”
The unapologetic message is that boys need a certain amount of danger and risk in their lives, and that there are certain lessons that need to be passed down from father to son, man to man. The implication is that in contemporary society basic rules of maleness aren’t being handed off as they used to be.
The book aims to correct that. It does so with a pretelevision, prevideogame sensibility, and also by embracing a view of gender that has been unfashionable in recent decades: that frogs and snails and puppy dogs’ tails are more than lines in a nursery rhyme, and that boys are by nature hard-wired differently than girls.
But “The Dangerous Book for Boys” is also aimed at boomer dads, who nostalgically yearn for a lost boyhood of fixing lawn mowers and catching snakes with their fathers — even if that didn’t really happen as often as they think it did. . . .
On the back of the book’s cover — retro red cloth with oversized gold lettering — the come-on is “Recapture Sunday afternoons and long summer days.” Inside are odd-sized color illustrations of fish, trilobites, and an example of marbled paper. Some have compared it to Daniel Carter Beard’s “The American Boy’s Handy Book,” originally published in 1882. . . .
Paul Bogaards, an executive for rival publisher Bertelsmann AG’s Alfred A. Knopf, says he took a copy home to his eight-year-old son, Michael, whom he describes as “junked up on Nick, Disney and Club Penguin,” a Web site. Mr. Bogaards says Michael took to it immediately, demanding that his dad test paper airplanes into the night, even missing “American Idol.” He adds: “That’s the good news. The bad news is that he now expects me to build him a treehouse.” . . .
“We initially thought that men nostalgic for their boyhoods would be the buyers, but people are also buying it for 12-year-old boys,” says Mr. Benjamin. “This book teaches them its OK to play and explore.” . . .
Dangerous” ranks No. 5 in sales on Amazon.com Inc.’s Web site, which provides an adjacent diagram explaining how to tie some knots. A video, provided by the publisher, shows how a father and son can use the book outdoors, including a scene where Dad gives his son’s gravity-powered go-cart a push downhill.
There’s a reason boys don’t usually like to read books but are slurping this one like the 7/11 drink. They hunger for books they can relate to. And they’re tired of reading about feminized boys and tough she-girl superheroes. PC is out. “The Dangerous Book for Boys” is in.
Another cool feature of this book: It’s driving the feminists crazy:
The gender-exclusive nature of “Dangerous” bothers some women. In a posting on the livejournal.com Web site, one woman, addressing the book and boys in general, wrote: “Here’s a tip, kiddies: maybe the girls want to have the same kind of fun you do, instead of sitting around the house and learning how to be a servant.” . . .
HarperCollins says it doesn’t have any immediate plans to publish a girl’s version. HarperCollins’s Ms. Friedman, who has two sons and two stepsons, explains: “Boys are very different.”
Since the book is from the UK, chapters and portions about English pursuits and hobbies have been replaced with American ones:
Concerned that the book would seem too British, Collins asked the authors to adapt parts of it for U.S. readers. A section about royalty was replaced by the 50 states, American mountains and the Declaration of Independence. Baseball’s most valuable players and “How to Play Stickball” supplants the chapter on cricket. But rugby made the cut: it was tough, dangerous and better-known in the U.S. A “Navajo Code Talkers’ Dictionary” superseded Britain’s patron saints. . . .
Unchanged for the U.S. market were the two pages on the subject of girls. The first bit of advice: “It is important to listen.”
Sounds like a great book.
But there’s a rub: The book is published by HarperCollins, a division of News Corp. That means that if you buy it, you are contributing to the profits of anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, who owns at least 5.46% of News Corp. stock. So, your best bet is to buy a used copy (at the time of this writing, Amazon had several used copies available) or take it out of the library for your young son.
Tags: Al-Waleed Bin Talal, Alfred A. Knopf, Amazon.com Inc., Benjamin, Bertelsmann AG, Britain, Carpe diem, Conn Iggulden, Connecticut, cricket, Curriculum vitae, Daniel Carter Beard, Executive, Friedman, Hal Iggulden, Michael, News Corp., Paul Bogaards, Prince, rival publisher, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United States, Wall Street Journal