Monday, July 16, 2007

Dangerous Books

I brought home “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” by Conn and Hal Iggulden, a while ago, and I was expecting the worst. I’d been reading a lot about the book—about its year at the top of bestseller lists in Britain, but also about its sins against gender equality and child safety. (The book assumes that there are some activities that will appeal more to boys than girls, and that kids will survive skinned knees.) Not many things bore me more than an argument about gender politics, and the book seemed to have sparked a big one. And so I was almost tempted to write “Dangerous Book” off as reactionary and paranoid, and its critics as overwrought.

But “Dangerous Book” turns out to be more quaint than ideological. With its neo-Victorian aesthetic and nostalgic tone, it seems to be aimed not so much at boys as at their aging Boomer daddies.

My six-year-old boy has been dipping into it lately and the most dangerous thing he has taken away from the book has been an interest in the old game of three-coin table hockey. He and I have been playing just about every day lately.

But I’m not sure I agree with the authors that there is a groundswell of boys out there who really want to read Rudyard Kipling’s “If.”

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