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Education Reporter

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The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn and Hal Iggulden, Collins, 2007, 270 pp., $24.95

Name a few things you think boys today miss out on. Heroes and history that will inspire them to grow into true manhood? Adventures in the real world and not just on a screen? The chance to learn in ways that interest them rather than in ways designed by women specifically for girls?

Whatever you name, The Dangerous Book for Boys probably offers something to help fill the gap. As if catapulted there by a slingshot, this compendium of activities, stories, and useful information hit the top of British and American bestseller lists. "We hope in years to come that this will be a book to dig out of the attic and give to a couple of kids staring at a pile of wood and wondering what to do with it," write the authors.

With The Dangerous Book's help, a pile of wood might become a workbench, go-cart, bow and arrows, or even a treehouse. The book also explores such projects as paper airplanes, secret inks, electromagnets, navigation, and hunting and cooking a rabbit. Each of the more dangerous sections gives calm, practical advice on doing these things safely and well.

The less dangerous sections also have many charms, including the humor the authors use throughout. In the section on girls, they advise their readers not to taunt a girl who needs help. Instead, if she is trying to lift something heavy, "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."

Interspersed with more active sections are inspiring stories of heroes who explored the world's least hospitable regions or helped to win the Battle of Britain; tales of famous battles and other important moments in history; answers to questions about the world; and even sections on Shakespeare, Latin phrases, poems, the most important rules of grammar, and the Ten Commandments.

The book itself is beautiful, with careful illustrations and images in color wherever they are useful. Since a pocket edition is now selling in England, it will probably be available soon in the U.S. The hardcover book, however, is very complete and would make a wonderful Christmas gift for any American boy.

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