The Pocket Guide to Mischief
by Danielle Wood
This week, I received some liquid dynamite in my mailbox. Well, not liquid dynamite, paper dynamite. In short, I received my own hot little copy of Bart King's The Pocket Guide to Mischief and I'm here to tell you parents, keep this little baby under wraps. By no means let your teen take a peek. That is, unless you're willing to risk the thought of a wedgie, in order to spark a love of reading.
Now, I don't usually review things in this column. In fact, I've never reviewed a book here. But I decided to make an exception. Because for parents with a reluctant reader at home, this book might just be the jumpstart you've been looking for.
The Pocket Guide to Mischief is a page-turner, plain and simple. Even the dedication, "This book is dedicated to my Nemesis. Think of this as a preview of coming attractions" is a hoot. Mischiefmakers can learn the basics-- from putting a sprinkler under someone's chair at a picnic, to how to handle a rubber chicken with ease. They'll learn to trick their family with a glass of secretly frozen juice, play Russian roulette with some seriously sick icecream cones, and host a rubberband chess duel.
But in between all the suggestions for mayhem, there are references to Niccolo Machiavelli and Vlad the Impaler, Ben Jonson and Wlliam Shakespeare. King introduces some pretty hefty vocabulary (in fact he has an entire section on insults inspired by the Oxford English Dictionary) but he does it in a fun way. Kids get a glimpse of familiar historical figures, but from an entirely different angle: King writes about the pranks of former presidents, famous philosophers, and world leaders. For example, Calvin Coolidge liked to ring the front door of the White House and then run and hide when the servants answered it. FDR reportedly made it a regular habit to tell nervous guests, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," in order to put them at ease.
From the Red Scare to the space race, this book is a great, if quirky, way to get kids excited about history, elevate their vocabulary, and get them reading. And it's in a package you won't have to shove down their throats. Just don't be surprised if you have to endure the occasional whoopie cushion at dinner time. It's worth it.
Danielle Wood is the Director of Editorial for Education.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org