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The Double Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden

The Double Dangerous Book for Boys follows up the worldwide bestseller, The Dangerous Book for Boys. In its pages you can expect to find more of the stories, how-to activities, history, solve-it problems, and even poems, which made the first instalment so popular.

This is a non-fiction book of genuinely interesting things, from how to pick a lock and solve the Rubik’s cube, to descriptions of ancient ruins and great explorers. The iconic orange, black and white cover imitates classic books for boys of the past and targets the nostalgic grandparent.

This is a satisfyingly thick hardback, sturdy enough to make its way through a few experiments, and still survive to be passed on through the family. Indeed, this is a book which will be passed back and forth, as the information it provides is useful at all stages of life (whether you need to make a stink bomb, or figure out the height of a tree in case you’re worried about it falling on your roof, or want to know how to write a thank you letter). The word ‘dangerous’ is deliberately tantalising, and it should be noted that some chapters, like how to start a fire with a battery, will live up to expectations.

The real problem with the book is the title. Targeting one gender is blatantly old-fashioned. While readers might point out that HarperCollins also published The Daring Book for Girls (and to make things fair, The Double Daring Book for Girls), the truth is that both titles isolate one gender, and discourage a whole set of potential readers from sinking their teeth into a great read. Perhaps some of this might be remedied by more inclusive subject matter. I was excited to find a chapter on ‘how to make perfume’ and a bit disappointed that this was expressly included as a Mother’s Day gift idea. Likewise, the three course summer meal instructions I would have been grateful for as a ten year old, when my idea of cooking was proudly presenting Mum with tomato sauce and defrosted peas stirred into plain pasta, are introduced as: ‘It seems obvious to us that every boy or young man should be able to prepare and serve a few simple dishes’, presumably so that it will ‘impress future girlfriends’. It might be argued that this is true to the style of the book.

One is loath to complain about a work that has clearly been sincerely and lovingly created, and the author acknowledges that ‘I hope it’s understood that strong women, like strong men, are a joy to heaven’, but there are opportunities for a more balanced approach.

This shouldn’t detract from the wicked fun and hours of entertainment that The Double Dangerous Book is guaranteed to provide. Inside and out, this is a wonderful book, and can be enjoyed by adults and children alike, boys and girls and side by side. I appreciated the book’s accessible presentation of adventurous activities, Greek myths, British history, impressive party tricks like tying your shoelaces fast, famous speeches and classic poems accompanied by explanatory notes. Drawing on their own experience as children and adults with children, the father-and-sons authors, Conn, Arthur and Cameron Iggulden have presented a book which is, in their own words, worthy of being hidden in a treehouse and more besides. With the potential to appeal to both the introverted and the extroverted, it makes learning and exploring a pleasure.

The ‘last word’ is a message to boys not to smoke! A rather forward-thinking Christmas message from the Royal Navy in 1903.

A great gift, not just for boys but for all genders, shapes and sizes and ages, to use, to come back to again and again and to treasure.

Reviewer: Susannah Whaley

HarperCollins, RRP $49.99


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