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Mom gets ''Dangerous''

”The Dangerous Book for Boys” makes a point of helping fathers connect with their sons, but this EW senior associate editor — and mom — couldn’t put it down

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Mom gets ”Dangerous”

I originally intended to write this column as a pre-Father’s Day refresher for all those Treo-toting dads who need to get back in touch with their inner Boy Scout, to rediscover the simple joys of playing marbles or making a go-cart, in the hopes that they could pass it on to their sons. ‘Cause that’s the whole point of The Dangerous Book for Boys, written by brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden. But then I — an admitted girly-girl who’s long past the age of pigtails and skinned knees — got a hold of the book, and haven’t wanted to put it down since.

I may not be the intended target audience for this tome (it’s recommended for males 8 through 80), but it contains all the things I’ve wanted to know about and hated using the phrase ”Go ask Daddy” for. The authors’ intention may have been to help create well-rounded men, but I’m sure I won’t be the only distaff reader who will put to use some of the gems found in this book. Herewith, a few of my favorites:

The Greatest Paper Airplane in the World (p. 2): There’s nothing more satisfying than launching one, and having it go more or less where you want it to go. Terrific for doing away with unnecessary press releases, bills, and other annoying papers.

The Five Knots Every Boy Should Know (p. 9): No longer will I have a bicycle nearly exit the back of my car on its way to the repair shop, now that I know how to tie a clove hitch (or at least look up how to tie a clove hitch, since if you don’t practice it over and over, you kinda forget). My bicycle thanks you, and the drivers behind me thank you.

Rules of Soccer (p. 27): Forget about spending time with the other mothers on the sideline gabbing about who’s trying to sabotage whom in the role of Class Mom or exchanging slow-cooker recipes. Now I can impress the coach with my knowledge of the offside rule and the proper technique for a throw-in. Assistant coach? Me?

The Navajo Code Talkers’ Dictionary (p. 100): Tired of sounding like a fishwife when you keep yelling the word listen? Try saying ESAT-TSANH instead. Your kids will think you’ve gone off the deep end, but at least this time you truly will be speaking in a language they can’t understand.

There’s also primers on how to play poker, marbles, and chess — all blessedly low-tech; the secrets behind skipping stones and coin tricks; and answers to pesky questions, such as Where does cork come from? and Why is the sky blue? (It has something to do with wavelengths and oxygen atoms: look it up, page 92).

So what about those ”dangerous” parts? Some may give parents pause all right (learning how to make a bow and arrow, set timers and tripwires, and hunt and cook a rabbit), but to me they seem to be more useful as marketing ploys for the book than actual activities kids will want to learn (tanning animal skins, anyone? It’s on p. 241.) But apart from glorifying those apparent treacherous pastimes, the book also serves to round out the average boy by explaining the rules of grammar, offering useful Latin phrases, and sharing potentially useful bits of Shakespeare. It even dispenses some practical advice on girls that might’ve come straight out of a Hugh Grant movie: If you see a girl in need of help — unable to lift something, for example — do not taunt her. Approach the object and greet her with a cheerful smile, while surreptitiously testing the weight of the object. If you find you can lift it, go ahead. If you can’t, try sitting on it and engaging her in conversation.

What attracted me to this book was its back-to-basics approach — and the number of things you could do with your kids that didn’t require batteries (yes, there’s even a chapter on how to make one of those from scratch). How about you? What are some of the things you do with your little ones that don’t require an electrical cord? What are the games that you remember as a child that you’d like to pass on to the next generation? And if you’ve read this book, do you think it really is just for boys? Post your thoughts to the message board below.