Boys, because they are boys (and are different) will enjoy books more when they help them to discover, experiment, explore, learn new things, make them laugh, consider the curious or unusual, help them to play, see how things work, share trivia tricks and facts with other boys, explore the unknown, and generally do stuff!The Dangerous Book for Boys written by Conn and Hal Iggulden (Harper Collins, 2006) just about covers all of my list (I'm reviewing the Australian edition). I'd heard about the book but a child of one of our friends introduced me to this great book properly in January this year. His name is Charlie and he lives on a wheat and sheep farm in the Riverina district of NSW. We were staying for a few days and after bowling at him (that's cricket for non-Aussie readers) in the back yard for half an hour we went inside and he showed me his latest book. My jaw dropped as I checked out the contents, I had to have this book, well maybe my own copy. Charlie began to show me all the great stuff inside:
How to make the greatest paper plane in the worldAs we flicked through the pages together, marvelling at all the things we could make Charlie said in hushed tone, "there's a funny bit here" (pointing to the section on "Girls"). "What's it like?" "It's real funny", he said. Maybe it was the bit about boys and wind breaking. We laughed together as we read this VERY important section that every young boy aged 8-12 years needs to read. This is my favourite bit of the advice about girls:
Building a tree house
Making a G0-cart
Some Australian snakes
Understanding grammar (true!)
Making a periscope
Five poems every boy should know
Latin phrases every boy should know
The laws of cricket, rugby, football
And lots, lots more!
"Avoid being vulgar. Excitable bouts of wind-breaking will not endear you to girl, just to pick one example"
As you can tell, this is not a book just to be read alone. Having your Dad, a Grandad, an Uncle or your best mate to explore and make this stuff would help (okay, your Mum could help but...). Here's a chance for boys to be boys, and in particular, to do some stuff with their fathers. I've commented previously in this blog about the important role that fathers play in supporting their children's learning (here) - this book is the perfect vehicle for strengthening relationships between fathers and their sons. It will certainly get them off the computer and outside.
There will be critics of the book who won't like its assumption that boys and girls are different (I think they are different) and some might also be critical of the somewhat idealised expectations that the book might raise for adventure and fun that might not be met for Dad's or their sons. I wouldn't worry about this, there is lots to have a go at that WILL meet expectations; so maybe apartment dwellers will find the tree house tough, do something else. On the gender difference issue, there is ample evidence in the research literature now that supports the view that boys and girls are different (not just culturally and due to socialisation). Leonard Sax's book "Why Gender Matters" is a good introduction to the topic if you are interested (I'll try to review it in a future post). And for those who must have some gender equity the recently released "The Daring Book for Girls" by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz should keep you happy [Update to this post, 10/10/08 I have now reviewed this book here).
The book is a little pricey at $AUS45 list price (you can do better than this at good bookstores - $25-40) but it's worth the cost. There is also now a pocketbook version out that is cheaper.
As John Doyle says in the foreword:
"This volume is chock-a-block full of practical ways to exercise the mind and imagination...". But he also stresses that it's dangerous. "Once you've hopped into the canoe and paddled out into the stream of information, you may never want to return to the humdrum world of mass-produced experience."
And yes, I now have my own copy! My wife Carmen bought it for me.