Centennial edition of boy's how-to book, The American Boy's Handy Book, by D.C. Beard. Boston: Nonpareil Books/David R. Godine. 441 pp. $9.95. Paperback. Ages 10 and up.
When a book has been around long enough to come out in a centennial edition, it's a pretty good indication that it has stood the test of time. ''The American Boy's Handy Book'' has done just that. Basically, it's a how-to manual for just about every kind of activity or game that boys of 100 years ago were involved in , and, in many cases, still are.
Want to build a snowman or a snow fort? How about a snow pig? As author Beard puts it, ''It is very seldom that pigs are sculptured in marble or cast in bronze, and it would be well to make some of snow, so as to have statues not likely to be found elsewhere. . . . A number of pigs, of different sizes, will give a lively and social air to the yard of a snow-house.''
How about a troubador's costume or puppets and a puppet show? Homemade boats and canoes? A water telescope? Or perhaps your own kite? They're all possible according to this book.
Written before the current age of safety consciousness regarding toys and games, Daniel Beard (who, incidentally, was one of the founding fathers of the Boy Scouts) has included activities that modern parents might deem hazardous without supervision (Fourth of July balloons and gas soap bubbles being two examples). There are also sections on guns, as well as hunting, trapping, and taxidermy, that some may find objectionable. But by and large, this is a fascinating compendium of useful knowledge, giving both a glimpse of the past and activity ideas for the present.