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The American Boy's Handy Book

The 19th century reference guide for childhood remains a classic

by James Thorne in Culture on 06 January 2012

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While today's youth are more likely to face a touch screen than a vast expanse of wilderness, the principles established in The American Boy's Handy Book remain as valuable as ever. A comprehensive reference for the practical skills all boys (and girls) should still know, the guide has remained in circulation since the original 1882 publication, offering detailed, approachable instructions and diagrams on how to rig river boats, defend yourself in a snowball fight, choose a dog, use your finger as a match, put on a dramatic rendition of Puss-in-Boots and more.

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Daniel Carter Beard, founder of the Boy Scouts of America, originally published the tome as a guide for young men to learn essential skills that would carry them through adulthood. As a renaissance man of sorts, enchanted with the magic of childhood, Beard worked an author and illustrator when he wasn't scouting. His drawings graced the pages of several works by Mark Twain, and in the Handy Book bring to life the skills he imparts with charm and practicality.

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The lessons of the book are organized by season to ensure that youngsters have year-round inspiration to pursue their interests, whether that be spear fishing, flying kites or reading minds. The instructions and illustrations are perfect for adventurous children or grown kids looking to recapture some of their lost youth. The most recent iteration of the book from Tuttle Publishing prints the vintage illustrations in a hardback edition wrapped in coated canvas.

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