Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ennui Antidote: The Big Book of Boy Stuff by Bart King

A boy can may turn to any page and find something to do, laugh at, or think about. In fact, he won't have to turn a single page.

If you're willing to judge a book by its cover, this one is already a winner. The dust jacket reverses to a dead ringer for that venerable black-and-white-marbled composition book, complete with fill-in-the-blank name and subject label with "154 sheets". Beneath the sturdy faux jacket, the staid navy cloth cover is imprinted with the word "PHYSICS" in gold script. It's the perfect go-anywhere underground guide to fun.

Inside the convertible cover, Bart King's The Big Book of Boy Stuff(Gibbs-Smith Press) is chock-a-block with all kinds of guy stuff to do, culled from many sources, some as ancient and non-politically correct as Sir Robert Baden-Powell's boy guide manuals to modern compendia of crafts, science experiments, games, jokes, and construction projects, all designed to get a boy off his duff, off the X-Box, and off his parents' backs doing something fun, preferably in the great outdoors.

A few items give offer nuggets for boys who've always wondered about stuff--what to do after you put beans up your nose, how to cook stuff that grosses out your buddies but still tastes good (anyone for Crapola Cookies?). Others include the magic and card tricks, the "sun tattoo" or secret writing ("PREPARE TO DIE" written on with a cut potato on the bathroom mirror to startle the bather after a steamy shower) or with milk or lemon juice. For the great outdoors there's the milk-jug fort (offer to recycle all your neighbors' cartons and be sure to wash them pronto!). There are diagrams for constructing paper airplanes and model rockets, slingshots, and other things that fly through the air. Most of these are compiled from other in-print sources, with the advantage of being captured under these easily disguised covers.

Like the runaway bestseller of the summer of 2007, The Dangerous Book for Boys, this one makes a super end-of-school gift or summer birthday present for people of the guy persuasion as a nostrum against the summertime blahs.

And, of course, author Bart King has a feminine version, The Big Book of Girl Stuff, all glammed-up in a pink composition book reversible dust jacket and pink cloth "CHEMISTRY" title embossed on the cover, and under that cover instructions such as fighting that killer first crush, fashioning a fake belly button piercing, and fending off the "mean girl" bully. With elementary and middle school kids in the house, both of these are great staples for the home reference shelf.

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