Want Danger?


Scott McGrew

Want Danger? Don’t Buy The Dangerous Book for Boys.

If you’re looking for a good gift for a “tweener” boy this Christmas, let me recommend one of my favorites. A book full of instructions from how to build a spear (and poke your eye out) to how to coat a kite with broken glass (and poke your eye out).

The book is not the best seller The Dangerous Book for Boys which is not dangerous at all. It’s The American Boy’s Handy Book which is available on Amazon.com. While the The Dangerous Book for Boys focuses on things like recognizing sailing flags (ooh, dangerous!) the Handy Book will teach you how to light paper bags on fire in such a way that they rise up a thousand feet into the air.

In an age when the government says water is too dangerous to carry on an airplane, it’s a refreshing reminder that Americans used to be pretty daring folk.

The book was originally written in the late 1800’s by the man who would eventually go on to help found the Boy Scouts, and is completely unchanged from its original form. This means you will have trouble following some of the instructions like “go down to the local pharmacist and ask for a small vial of acid – he will gladly help a curious boy!” but it also means it’s not hindered by legal considerations about advising boys how to use acid. Yay acid!

Many of the instructions are easy to follow, like building one of those traps that spring up into the air to catch rabbits. Haven’t you always wondered how those work? Me too. The historic flavor to the writing just makes it that much more beautiful to read. On building a kite: “It is a pleasant sensation to sit in the first spring sunshine and feel the steady pull of a good kite upon the string…”.

The forward to the book (written in modern day) reminds us there was a time in which young boys were little more than savages – think Huck Finn. Boys were expected to fend for themselves, and were largely left to their own devices until they became teenagers. Thus the book instructs boys – never girls, of course – how to fish, how to clean that fish, how to build an oven by setting fire to a barrel (yay fire!) and then how to cut down trees to build a fort for the night. Or a fortnight.

It’s one of those books that you’re surprised isn’t banned. Maybe you could even get thrown out of school for reading it – it has detailed instructions on how to make a blowgun, for instance. The TSA probably won’t let you take it on the plane, ’cause you might poke someone’s eye out.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter


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