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TV Series Review

Forget skinned knees and black eyes. Kids in the 21st century are more likely to suffer eye strain or sprains to their texting thumbs.

But the McKenna boys ail from something else, too: hurting hearts.

Patrick McKenna—husband, father, whimsical inventor and all-around great guy—died recently, leaving behind wife Beth and three young sons: Liam, Dash and Wyatt. All grieve, of course. Patrick was the family's engine, the force that pushed the boys out of their comfort zones and into new places of possibility. But Wyatt, the youngest, perhaps misses his dad the most of all. For a while, the kids salve their pain via the ministries of the modern age: their phones. Their videogames. Their virtual pleasures.

But while Dad may be gone, in some ways he's still with them.

Part of that is because Terry, Patrick's lookalike twin brother, is staying with the family now—at least, we're told, "'til he gets arrested again."

But more importantly, Patrick left behind a book, which he wrote especially for his sons. Called The Dangerous Book for Boys, it's a lot like the author: whimsical. Scattered. And, yes, a wee bit dangerous.

But then again, thinking always is.

How to Grow Up

The Dangerous Book for Boys is a guidebook, essentially—a how-to tome on how to be a kid. Or, maybe, an astronaut. Or a cowboy. Some of its chapters are quite practical: "How to Build a Paper Plane," for instance, or "How to Build a Treehouse." But the first chapter that Wyatt reads details "How to Walk on the Moon" (also the title of the first episode), a skill that seems of dubious utility in the McKennas' suburban neighborhood.

But while learning how to walk on the moon may seem impractical, Patrick (who, as far as we know, didn't have a lot of moon-walking experience himself) believed it to be essential. Sure, maybe Wyatt will never have occasion to literally hop around on our lunar satellite's dusty surface. But he might want to go there someday … in his imagination. So it's best to be prepared.

And that, we must assume, gets to the heart of why Patrick really wrote this book. He didn't care so much about teaching his boys how to build a battery as he did about triggering their imaginations. Stoking their collective sense of adventure. The book's how-to portions are interspersed with short biographies and fascinating historical snippets, all designed to whisk Patrick's sons to strange, exciting realms filled with adventure and possibility. It's through these things—building and exploring, imagining and dreaming and, yes, even skinning the occasional knee—that boys become men worthy of the moniker. Or so Patrick thought.

And through the book, Patrick can still be with his boys in a way. In fact, he tells Wyatt that he's still with them "on every page."

How to Turn off the TV (After This Show's Over, of Course)

Based on the bestselling book written by Conn and Hal Iggulden, Amazon Prime's The Dangerous Book for Boys is, on one level, a study in irony. Amazon, after all, has done its fair share to suck people into screens: We watch its shows (of which this is one). We buy its screen devices. Thanks to Amazon, we don't need to even go outside to shop anymore. It only makes sense that when we see the McKenna kids fiddle around with their tablets, they all appear to be made by Amazon.

And yet, this show's message is unmistakable: Put down the gadgets for a bit, it tells us. Go outside and climb a tree. Fly a kite. Do something different. Challenging. Dangerous.

It's a great message told by what is, in fact, a pretty good show.

The Dangerous Book for Boys manages the ticklish trick of being sweetly sentimental without being treacly. It targets younger viewers without ever alienating the old ones. It reinforces the beauty and importance of family—even when that family is flawed and awkward and imperfect (as all families are). And while it doesn't focus on faith in any more than in the most glancing of ways, The Dangerous Book for Boys does remind us that we're never really without our loved ones even here on earth—as long as we love them and value what they taught us.

Admittedly, The Dangerous Book for Boys may be a tad perilous for some families, in spite of what it offers. Tiffany, the boys' hippy, New-Agey grandma, lives with the McKennas. She sometimes alludes to her wild-child youth or shares her crystal-tinged philosophy of the universe. (In the opening episode, Tiffany says she's reluctant to talk about Patrick because if she does, "He'll think we're calling him back." They all need to wait a full three moon cycles until he reaches his "celestial terminus," she says.)

Twin Terry isn't always the best of role models, either. And some moms and dads may not want their kids learning the surface lessons Patrick's book teaches. (The second episode, for instance, is titled "How to Play Poker.")

The show engages in a bit of gross-out and bathroom humor as well, and the brothers—as brothers are wont to do—don't always treat each other with the utmost respect:

"What's so dangerous about a book?" action-oriented Dash asks.

"For you?" bookish eldest brother Liam says. "Trying to read it."

But those minor caveats aside, The Dangerous Book for Boys encourages its viewers to be "dangerous" in the best possible ways. It tells them that there's a world beyond the screen, one worth exploring and engaging with. And that, I think, will make the Dangerous Book worth cracking open for some families.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

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Plot Summary

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Dangerous Book for Boys: Mar. 30, 2018 "How to Walk on the Moon"



Readability Age Range





Chris Diamantopoulos as Patrick/Terry; Gabriel Bateman as Wyatt McKenna; Drew Powell as Dash McKenna; Kyan Zielinski as Liam McKenna; Erinn Hayes as Beth McKenna; Swoosie Kurtz as Tiffany; Athan Sporek as Sam; Sophia Valinotti as Maya






Record Label




On Video

Year Published



Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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