Try This at Home: Book Captures Boyhood Nostalgia

Conn Iggulden

hide captionConn Iggulden (pictured) and his brother, Hal, worried that some of the old-fashioned skills they learned as boys would disappear in the age of DVDs and video games.

In an age of PlayStations, mobile phones and iPods, Hal and Conn Iggulden want boys to know that there's still room for pyrotechnics, paper airplanes and playfulness.

The brothers have captured some of the old-fashioned magic of being a boy in their book The Dangerous Book for Boys. Boyhood, the Igguldens say, is all about curiosity, so they've stocked their guide with some basic ingredients to get boys off the computer and into the backyard.

Boys can learn how to build a go-cart, make an electromagnet, grow a crystal and make secret ink. Dads and their sons can bond over the adventures of Scott of the Antarctic and the Battle of the Somme. The Igguldens even include the long-lost art of tanning a skin and wrapping packages in brown paper and string.

The idea, the authors say, is that courage, risk-taking and a sense of adventure is what being a kid is all about. As for danger, sections on hunting and cooking rabbits and making cloth fireproof may hold more risk than most chapters (including one on how to treat girls), but the overall premise is that learning new skills — and taking a few risks — can be fun.

Weekend Edition Saturday's Scott Simon put some of the book's boyhood skills to the test at the Codfish Park woodworking shop in New York City's East Village where he built a go-cart with Conn Iggulden.

Excerpt: 'The Dangerous Book for Boys'

Book cover image

GIRLS

You may already have noticed that girls are quite different from you. By this, we do not mean the physical differences, more the fact that they remain unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Morse code. Some will be impressed, of course, but as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.

We thought long and hard about what advice could possibly be suitable. It is an inescapable fact that boys spend a great deal of their lives thinking and dreaming about girls, so the subject should be mentioned here—as delicately as possible.

Advice About Girls

1. It is important to listen. Human beings are often very self-centered and like to talk about themselves. In addition, it's an easy subject if someone is nervous. It is good advice to listen closely—unless she has also been given this advice, in which case an uneasy silence could develop, like two owls sitting together.

2. Be careful with humor. It is very common for boys to try to impress girls with a string of jokes, each one more desperate than the last. One joke, perhaps, and then a long silence while she talks about herself . . .

1. When you are older, flowers really do work—women love them. When you are young, however, there is a ghastly sense of being awkward rather than romantic—and she will guess your mother bought them.

2. Valentine's Day cards. Do not put your name on them. The whole point is the excitement a girl feels, wondering who finds her attractive. If it says "From Brian" on it, the magic isn't really there. This is actually quite a nice thing to do to someone you don't think will get a card. If you do this, it is even more important that you never say, "I sent you one because I thought you wouldn't get any." Keep the cards simple. You do not want one with fancy stuff of any kind.

3. Avoid being vulgar. Excitable bouts of windbreaking will not endear you to a girl, just to pick one example.

4. Play a sport of some kind. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it replaces the corpse-like pallor of the computer programmer with a ruddy glow. Honestly, this is more important than you know.

5. 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.

6. Finally, make sure you are well-scrubbed, your nails are clean and your hair is washed. Remember that girls are as nervous around you as you are around them, if you can imagine such a thing. They think and act rather differently to you, but without them, life would be one long football locker room. Treat them with respect.

Copyright © 2007 HarperCollins Publishers, All rights reserved.

Books Featured In This Story

The Dangerous Book for Boys
The Dangerous Book of Heroes

by Conn Iggulden and David Iggulden

Hardcover, 270 pages | purchase

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  • Conn Iggulden and David Iggulden

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