When The Dangerous Book for Boys came out a few years ago, it caused quite a stir, buddying up to Harry Potter on the bestseller lists. With a deliberately old-fashioned typeface, style and layout the book evokes a time (real or imagined) when boys typically learned how to tie knots, and carried pocketknives, and spent many independent hours doing boy stuff outdoors. It’s something like the Boy Scout handbook, but with a better designer and a sense of humor. The response from the public has been phenomenal.
What makes this book interesting from a Lion’s Whiskers perspective is that it’s about knowing how to do things – make marbled paper or catch and identify a fish or build a tree house or play poker. What an eclectic suite of skills and knowledge can give to a boy (or a girl) is a stronger internal locus of control. The more things you know how to do, the more self-reliant you become and the fewer situations provoke fear or anxiety. The more you feel competent to control what happens to you or around you (internal locus of control) the better. Sometimes courage is simply knowing what to do. Sometimes social courage means being able to toss out the names of a few of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World to make an impression. Sometimes physical courage involves knowing which common insects bite and which ones are harmless. Sometimes moral courage gets a boost from having read the Gettysburg Address a few times.
Of the 70+ brief chapters, only a very few (how to make a bow and arrow, for example) touch on anything remotely dangerous, unless looked at by an anxious helicopter parent. But if you are the sort of parent who thinks learning how to make a water bomb or a go-cart or how to build a battery is dangerous, then you probably aren’t reading this blog.
What I suggest is that taken as a whole, this collection of skills, techniques, stories and bits of information might make the world look and feel less dangerous to a boy. Building a strong interior locus of control – that’s what this is a handbook for. Also available: The Pocket Dangerous Book for Boys: Things to Do for boys who like to keep it handy while they’re up in a treehouse.