Dangerous Book Of Heroes Hardcover – Jun 15 2009
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Praise for 'The Dangerous Book of Heroes' 'Entertaining, and stripped down to the interesting bits, it is a great read about those that put the Great into Britain. An inspiring read for lads and their dads, history pupils - and pub quiz fans' News of the World 'It should have a powerful and instructive effect on the children who read it' Telegraph 'Just the ticket to real-life derring-do...A summer treat that will raise a gasp and a chuckle long after the last grain of sand has fallen from its pages' The Times
From the Back Cover
Discover stories of heroism and adventure in this next installment of the blockbuster series Dangerous Book for Boys
Brothers Conn and David Iggulden present their big book of heroes: the men and women who have shaped our lives and inspired generations. This treasure chest of saints, rogues, and champions of causes great and small is filled with names you will surely recognize, such as George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. and Sir Henry Morgan and Edith Cavell, whose roles in history are no less significant or exciting. From Helen Keller and Scott of the Antarctic to Sitting Bull and the passengers of Flight 93, this dangerous book is dedicated to those who dove headfirst into battle, those who made amazing discoveries, and those who moved boundaries in their lifetimes.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book starts out with George Washington, and discussed many things I had never considered about the Father of our country. For instance, his biography begins by calling him neither a great soldier nor a great farmer, just a man put in the right place at the right time. It's a theory that carries throughout the book.
Part of the reason I really liked this book is the idea that anyone can be a hero, given the circumstances. The passengers of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 were heroes, although I don't think that any one of them thought that they would save the lives of thousands when they boarded their plane. Yet I think their inclusion in this book of heroes is perfect.
All in all, I recommend this book for any reader over the age of twelve or so, anyone old enough to accept the fact that not every story ends happily and that not all heroes have medals. I think it would be especially wonderful to read as a family, and to discuss the heroes listed here, and if they agree with the author that these people are heroes at all. (I agree with most, but not all of the people listed here, and there are a few others I'd have included)
The blurb on the back reads that it "compile[s] the stories of America's heroes from across the ages," but as another interviewer pointed out these are not just stories of Americans, but many many Brits as well. Although I guess one could argue they are still heroes of America, this is a bit misleading. It also promises "stories of courage and adventure." And yes, these are stories of people who had adventures and courage, unfortunately that adventure and courage is not communicated to the reader, especially younger readers.
Instead of the tales OF adventure that I was expecting, what we found when we opened this volume was fairly dry, short autobiographies filled with dates and names. Together we read the selection on Harry Houdini, a favorite historical figure of my son's. And we got immigration facts, his height, and the name of his wife. Not exactly reading that will keep a busy eight-year-old boy on the edge of his seat. The parts that could have interested him were quickly passed over with very few details given. For example, when he ran away from home at age 12 by jumping on a train was described in about as many words as I just used. These are not, as the back describes them, stories: they are collections of the facts, mere outlines of the stories.
The idea of this book has great potential. My son would love a collection of stories about some of the great adventures men and women have had in history. But they need to be told as stories, with details and emotion, and with carefully built suspense. As it is this book was a disappointment to both of us; we couldn't even finish the section on Houdini as I was as bored as he was. We may shelf this one for when he is older, but honestly I don't think it will be read. The life of these lives has been distilled out: all that is left is the facts, and that's not much fun to read (although it may be informative).
Sadly missing are men of science and learning who made the world better. Why no Benjamin Franklin or Jonas Salk? Why no Terry Fox or people whose courage inspires as much as their activities. While they deserve credit for the book introducing some ancient heroes, a more balance approach would have made for a better book.
The Dangerous Book of Heroes is the Igguldens' latest attempt to capitalize on their earlier success and as with most sequels it never quite makes the grade. It is essentially a series of mini-biographies of historical figures that the Igguldens feel were pivotal, heroic and whose stories can serve as an inspiration for the youth of today. This time, however, the Igguldens seemed bogged down by the archaic style that worked so well last time. Here, the use of language and tone makes these vignettes seem just a little too old fashioned and a little too long. Moreover, I still haven't figured out the intended age group for this book: the authors occasionally veer off into topics that are a little too grisly or scatological for the young reader; yet the content seems a little superficial for children in their early teens. That being said, the book is a worthy attempt to assemble biographies of historic figures that children can aspire to, it just never quite strikes the right chord.
The writing ranges in style from a sort of watered down 11th edition Encyclopedia Brittanicaesque to the kind of written for children biographies circa 1940 to 1960 that you might have borrowed from your public library as a kid. The biographies are complimented by pen and ink drawings that appropriately bring back that feeling of a bygone era. The level of detail is somewhat random, with George Washington at the top of the pack with 27 pages of narrative and the astronauts of Apollo 11 taking a large step for mankind at 7 pages. The shorter biographies held my interest more than the longer ones. The George Washington, Captain Cook, William Bligh, and Horatio Nelson vignettes suffered a little from laundry lists of accomplishments, battles, and/or ports of call.
Generally, however, the vignettes were serviceable encapsulations of the subjects lives. The best of the best, in my opinion, were those of Sitting Bull, the women of the SOE, Winston Churchill, and Harry Houdini. The authors were able to hold my attention by pointing out the remarkable and admirable characteristics of the heroes described, their major accomplishments, and interesting, lesser known facts about these heroes in a succinct and accessible fashion.
The reading level seems uneven to me, although it may well be that the choices of words used are more characteristic of a British child's vocabulary. Adults will have no problems here, but children ages 7 to 16 in the US may fall a little short. There is also a tacit understanding that the reader has a rudimentary knowledge of basic British history, the workings of the British government, military terminology, and relationships in the British monarchy. Here too, a child in the US might be at a bit of a loss.
The choice of the subjects for the biography was solely at the discretion of the authors, but some statistics are revealing. There are 36 vignettes in total, most are about individuals but some describe groups of people. 29 of the vignettes are exclusively about men and 5 of them are exclusively about women. Quickly counting, there appear to be 17+ Brits (it really depends on how you do the counting), 7 Americans, a single Native American, and a single African American. Asia is only represented by the Gurkhas and Tenzig Norgay (who shares the spotlight with the be-knighted New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary). Canadians everywhere will cheer for Billy Bishop, their single entry in the book. There is but one French woman, who was one of the women of the SOE. I couldn't find any Africans. There were no Muslims of note. Given the conspicuous absence of the word "boy" in the title of this book, I believe that the Igguldens were trying to attract a more diverse audience. However, the content of the biographies leans toward the white, British or American man and shows a glaring lack of diversity. That being said, an African would have as tough a time as a Spaniard or German in finding a hero herein to relate to. The Dangerous Book for Boys has been translated into many languages, I doubt that this will be the case for this title.
The authors are mostly successful in maintaining their characteristic tone, but sometimes the tone made me shudder. The most glaring reference occurred when the authors referred to one of the Alamo's defenders as "[Jim] Bowie's black freedman, Sam." I am sure that Sam was referred to in this manner in some older historical texts, but it would have been more appropriate to refer to Sam as Jim Bowie's hired servant. There are also references to sexual behavior, venereal disease, adultery, cannibalism, etc. that are certainly part of the history and would work for older readers, but if this book was intended for 7 to 10 year olds it would have been better to gloss over some of this.
All this being said, there is worthy and interesting information that can be found herein, but the book is simply not as universal or as classic as the Dangerous Book for Boys, and for this reason I was sadly disappointed. I did enjoy reading many of the biographies presented and do believe that they have a certain value to them. But this is not a book that I could recommend wholeheartedly as an extension of the authors' 'Dangerous Book' series and would suggest that you read the excerpts carefully before purchasing.
George Washington, American colonial officer, Revolutionary general, first president of the United States.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, 20th century explorer, adventurer and Incredibly Tough Guy.
Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, Victorian adventurer, translator of the Arabian Nights into English.
Daniel Boone, archetypal American frontiersman.
The Royal Air Force Command, "The Few" who defended Britain's airspace in WWII.
The Magna Carta Barons, founders of the modern concept of liberty. The oldest heroes in this book.
Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England during the years of the Commonwealth.
Helen Keller, deaf and blind girl.
Captain James Cook, pathfinder of the seas.
Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay, first men to reach the top of Mt. Everest.
Various lawyers and politicians who worked to abolish slavery in the British Empire.
Sitting Bull, the last Sioux chief to defy the United States government.
Edith Cavell, brave nurse of WWI.
Thomas Paine, author of _Rights of Man_.
The Women of SOE, undercover operatives during WWII.
The Texan defenders of the Alamo.
Sir Henry Morgan, king of the buccaneers.
Lawrence of Arabia.
Florence Nightingale, inventor of modern nursing.
The passengers of Flight 93 who fought back against the terrorist hijackers.
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during WWII.
The Gurkhas, formidable elite British troops from Nepal.
Horatio Nelson, the admiral who defeated Napoleon at sea.
The Marines at Iwo Jima, one of the hardest-fought battles in WWII's Pacific theater.
Billy Bishop, flying ace of WWI.
Codebreakers of Bletchley Park, inventors of the first computers during WWII.
William Bligh, captain of the HMS "Bounty" of mutiny fame.
The Apollo 11 astronauts, first men on the moon.
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
Alcock and Brown, first to fly nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean.
Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, two Elizabethan adventurers.
Harry Houdini, escape artist.
Scott of the Antarctic, the first to explore Antarctica.
The Men of Colditz, escape-prone inmates of a Nazi prison during WWII.
The Unknown Warrior, symbol of all fallen servicemen. Britain was the first to officially honor one.
Martin Luther King, Jr. civil rights pioneer.
As you can see, these are all heroes of Western culture. No Asian, African or Middle Eastern heroes here. Taken for what it is, though, the book is very entertaining. A few of the articles towards the end seemed to drag, but my overall impression is favorable. It was fun to read, and educational. Since I can't find anything to really complain about, I guess I have to award a full 5 stars.