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'Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children' by Conn Iggulden

From the co-author of 'The Dangerous Book for Boys' comes a make-believe world inhabited by tiny, winged beings that are a lot like fairies, only a lot less fragile.

December 13, 2009|By Susan Carpenter
  • The winged beings, as illustrated by Lizzy Duncan.
The winged beings, as illustrated by Lizzy Duncan. (Harper )

Conn Iggulden is best known for "The Dangerous Book for Boys," a how-to for the Boy Scout set that he co-wrote with his brother Hal. More than 2 million "Dangerous" books are now in print, which has not only spawned additional "pocketbooks," an adventure game, a science kit and a Burger King premium in the two years since it was published in the U.S., but has also prompted the middle of the English Iggulden fraternal scribes to pen the three-part illustrated fairy tale, "Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children" (Harper: 176 pp., $16.99).

In this make-believe world of tiny, winged beings that are a lot like fairies, only a lot less fragile, the everyday confusion of young life is made even more complicated by humans who can't see the Tollins and subject them to various indignities, such as using them to power firecrackers (once the humans discover blue-tinted glasses that allow them to see and scoop up Tollins in jam jars) and flooding their main gathering area. Led by an intrepid, science-minded Tollinboynamed Sparkler who figures out how to improve their tiny lives through chemistry, the three stories are connected by the same characters and the driving force that also propels the "Dangerous" books: adventuresome curiosity.

While the premise of "Tollins" is charming, the writing is less so. The plots are laden with digressions, making the stories more likely to confuse than to engage their intended readers. "Tollins" (with illustrations by Lizzy Duncan) is better entertainment for playful adults than easily distracted younguns who will need the pictures to keep them turning pages.

Iggulden fans may want to check into his fictionalized histories of Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan or hold out for "The Dangerous Book of Heroes," written with another brother, David, due next spring, which features real stories of courage and adventure that provide a better framework for the author's enthusiasms.

susan.carpenter@latimes.com

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