December 11, 2007

How can you resist "the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery"?

It turns out, according to The Telegraph, that the Forbidden LEGO book I looked at the other month is a "surprise Christmas bestseller"* (no, I decided against it for Daniel this year -- in my head I sounded like Ralphie's mother: "You'll put your eye out" -- instead biting the bullet and trying Sploids, which join Lego and K'Nex, though I still haven't heard from anyone I know who has actually used them; and at this point, they're winging their way northward, so if you have them and don't like them speak up before I stuff them in a stocking); the book,
dubbed "the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery", is topping the Santa Claus wish list for naughty children and their parents all over the world.

Forbidden Lego, Build the Models Your Parents Warned You Against subverts a playroom favourite since 1958 to provide detailed instructions on how to turn the ubiquitous plastic building bricks into unauthorised working devices.

A toy Gatling Gun, a continuous-fire ping-pong ball launcher and a catapult siege weapon are among the designs featured.

The manual, created by two former top Lego research scientists at the Danish company, is mirroring the success of books like The Dangerous Book for Boys to put danger and creative risk back into playtime.

Ulrik Pilegaard, a one time senior designer at Lego and Mike Dooley, a former director of development, told the Danish media that the book allowed them to share all laboratory models they created but were unable to convince company risk assessment teams to let the public play with.

"When I worked for Lego, every once and a while we created some really cool things that couldn’t get approved," Mr Pilegaard told the Copenhagen Post.

Mr Pilegaard and Mr Dooley, published by the self-styled "geek" publisher No Starch Press in San Francisco, aim to get both young and older Lego users "to try inventing their own rule-breaking models".

"The Lego Company has its official (and sensible) rules for building that include no cutting or tampering with bricks, creating models that shoot unapproved projectiles, or using non-standard parts. Well, toss those rules out the window," they write.

"You’ll learn to create working models that Lego would never endorse."

Perhaps unsurprisingly Lego has responded cautiously to the book that promises to reveal blueprints for "high velocity aircraft launchers" or "a high voltage Lego vehicle" among other dangerous sounding devices.

"When we heard the title, we thought the authors were revealing the secrets of our products," said Trine Nissen, a spokesman for Lego.

"But once we found out what it was about, we were much more at ease."

The book has been enthusiastically welcomed by online reviewers and YouTube postings of rapid-firing Lego guns -- with the plastic bricks acting as both the construction material and as ammo -- have driven meteoric sales.

Andrew Liszewski, writing on, confessed that as much as he loved his "army of G.I. Joe figures and armada of Transformers" most of his time was spent with Lego.

"Like any kid tired of engineering my own miniature town I occasionally built a Lego gun or rifle but unfortunately they never actually worked," he said.
* I checked, and it's #410 at and #334 at Curiously, not available from but Canadians can find it here.

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