Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Dangerous Book

Kevin Coolidge

‘Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck. It seems Ho, Ho, Ho is out. It’s just not politically correct. Is it just me, or are we as a society just too damn worried about offending everybody and anyone? Too afraid of being sued or losing our job over a joke? Maybe I’m just being nostalgic, but I remember a time when I didn’t have to apologize for being who I am. I believe that’s why I find The Dangerous Book for Boys, by the brothers Conn and Hal Iggulden, so appealing. It doesn’t ask a boy to be sorry for being a boy. Boys are drawn to the thrill of danger, climbing trees and arm wrestling, taking things apart and learning how they work. It’s part of growing up, or at least it used to be…

The Dangerous Book for Boys is a guidebook aimed at boys “from eight to eighty.” The book covers about eighty topics, including how to build a tree house, make a bow and arrow, or skip a stone. Also included is crucial information on historical battles, legendary explorers, the Golden Age of Piracy, Navajo code breakers of WW2, and even some points on grammar, and poems and books every boy should read.

I found it impossible to open the book and not find a topic of interest. Did you know you could tell direction with a watch with two hands? Just hold the watch horizontally (in the northern hemisphere) Point the hour hand at the sun. Bisect the angle between the hour hand and 12 to give you a north-south line. This is much more convenient than the old moss on the north side of the tree adage. What do you do if the tree has moss all the way around? Walk in circles?

The Dangerous Book for Boys is the ideal gift for a father and son, or mother and daughter, or uncle or aunt…Because I knew more than one girl growing up who ran around with skinned-up knees and played on the monkey bars. There’s something for everyone who wants to enjoy being wild, creative, and adventurous. You can learn about how to hunt and skin a rabbit, cloud formations, and fishing as well as, indoor activities-such as paper airplanes, coin tricks, and playing poker. So, put up the iPod and grab your Swiss Army Knife, a compass, a flashlight, and some Band-Aids. Because adventure awaits!

It was Alexander Pope who said, "A little learning is a dangerous thing.” and some reviewers have criticized the book, saying it encourages young readers to injure themselves, but I believe our “playstation culture” of being sedentary is much more dangerous. Boys will be boys, and boys grow up to be men. “They need to fall off things occasionally," Iggulden says, "or . . . they'll take worse risks on their own. If we do away with challenging playgrounds and cancel school trips for fear of being sued, we don't end up with safer boys--we end up with them walking on train tracks." Me? I’m going outside to climb a tree. Better a broken bone, than a broken spirit…

Dangerous Boy, or Daring Girl? Drop me an email at Read a book about a Courageous Cat. “Hobo Finds A Home”, about a barn cat who wanted more out of life. Soon to be translated into Mandarin Chinese! Miss a column? Check it out at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

'Twas The Night Before Xmas

Kevin Coolidge

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, ribbons were scattered, and I don’t know where the cat hid the Scotch tape. I love matching the right gift for the right person, but I hate wrapping presents. It’s so frustrating. I never seem to be able to cover the entire package. No matter how huge a sheet of paper I start with. You know, now that I think about it, there’s no mention in the Bible of the Three Wise Men wrapping the gold, frankincense, or the myrrh. I must therefore conclude that the very first Christmas presents were not wrapped. I knew they were called wise men for a reason, but I’m not going to debate theology. I’m going to stick with what I know best and help you choose the right book for the right person:

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore: I love lamb with a little mint jelly, and if you have a sense of humor, you will love this saga of the “missing years” of Joshua ,as told by his childhood friend Biff. Moore has an irreverent sense of humor that made me laugh so hard, I got kicked out of bed. At the same time, I came away with new sense of Jesus as a human being. The fact that Jesus became human to redeem the world is at the core of the Christian faith. Is this book blasphemy? Surely to some, but I found it a light-hearted satire of the life of Christ. A great book for Christians, Jews, and Buddhists with a sense of humor, and heaven help those who don’t.

Of A Predatory Heart by Joe Parry: Joe Parry, a Vietnam vet and an outdoor writer, has written for the Pennsylvania Game News, Field and Stream, Fins and Feathers, Turkey Magazine, Sports Afield, Readers Digest, Northwest Outdoors, the Philadelphia Daily News, and the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, to name just a few. His stories on hunting, fishing, and the outdoor lifestyle run from snort-milk-through-your nose funny, to bringing a tear to a seasoned woodsman’s eye. It’s a memoir of a lifelong outdoorsman; starting from his return from the Vietnam War, with tales ranging from archery hunting, fly fishing, introducing children to woodcraft, and the bond that forms between generations through appreciation of the woodlands. If your woodsman loved Don Knaus’s book Of Woods and Wild Things, he’ll want this in his stocking.

World War Z by Max Brooks: From the author of The Zombie Survival Guide comes this gem chronicling the fictional “Zombie World War”. This is the best book I’ve read all year. It charts a war against the undead from global pandemic to worldwide panic and the armed struggle to reclaim the planet. World War Z is a collection of accounts, each revealing an aspect of the larger plot and a personal tale. The viewpoint is not strictly the American, but focuses on the global nature of the struggle. Brooks manages to address such issues as environmentalism, the war on terror and international health care, and it’s entertaining. This isn’t just a great zombie book, but a great book. Great for horror, science fiction fans, or the lover of post-apocalyptic scenarios.

The Bucktail series by Bill Robertson and David Rimer: Of all the unusual combat units of the Civil War, none was more colorful than the Pennsylvania Bucktails. The trials and tribulations of the Bucktails have been captured in an easy and fun-to-read series for children and adults. William P. Robertson is himself a Civil War buff and re-enactor, and his enthusiasm and technical expertise shows through his writing and photographs. Robertson does most of his own photography and there are several great photos of fellow re-enactors, which bring the books and time period to life. Great for children 9 to 12 years of age, and Civil War buffs.

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman: The realm of heroes and villains gets an irradiated dose of angst and realism in this quirky debut novel. It’s classic superhero fare with giant robots, mystical relics, and snazzy form-fitting outfits. Every comic book cliché is affectionately embraced, and then smashed to pieces. What makes this different is the intimate look into the psyche of both the heroes and the villains, because even Metahumans are people--people who worry about shopping lists, relationships, and their latest endorsements. Great for diehard superhero fans, or those we used to read comics.

Power to the People: Russian Strength Training Secrets for Every American by Pavel Tsatsouline: If I could recommend just one book on strength training, this would be it. Beautiful in its simplicity, this book gives the basics of strength from just getting stronger for carrying that bag of groceries to becoming a burly, Russian Bear. For the experienced and hard-core gym rat, check the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, also by Pavel. Don’t know what a kettlebell is? Let me show you, comrade, and for the ladies there is From Russia with Tough Love. Great for the longtime player of the iron game, or those ready to begin the journey.

Books make for some of the best gifts. With books, we can travel, learn a foreign language, begin juggling, craft stonewalls, and learn to love and laugh at ourselves. Plus, they are easier to wrap than frankincense. Now, if I can just find the damn tape…

Bags or Bows? Can I get this gift-wrapped? Comments? Questions? Myrrh? Email me at Be sure to check out the cat’s new book available NOW! It’s “Hobo Finds A Home” about a cute, barn cat that leaves the farm, has big adventures, and finds a new home. Written by Hobo and illustrated by Susan Gage. It’s available at, Amazon, B&N, or your hometown bookstore. Be sure to catch Hobo on the Oprah show!!