Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual

Title: M3: Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual

Author: Sir John Hargrave

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap (div of the Penguin Group)

Publish Date: June 11, 2009

ISBN: 9780448449821

Miscellaneous: This is an advance uncorrected proof and not the finished copy.

The Prankster’s Code

There are six fundamentals of mischief making, a set of rules that will guide and protect you throughout your pranking career. Just as a Boy Scout can stay alive in the wilderness by cooking and eating a bear, your chances of staying out of trouble will be greatly improved if you follow these six basic concepts. 

A: Always be careful.
B: Don’t be a Bully.
C: Be Creative.
D: No lasting Damage.
E: Excellence in pranking.
F: Be Funny.

-Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual, page 23

Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual (hereafter referred to simply as the M3) is, as the title suggests, a manual for young pranksters.  It provides some  stories of legendary proportions in the history of pranking, and proclaims the M3 Institute’s desire for excellence and creativity in mischief making.  Above all, the pranking youngster is to follow the Prankster’s Code, with particular attention to being careful that no one is injured and that no lasting damage is done.

This book mainly seems to be written for boys, ages 9-15 year old, both in its language and references and in the 1950s reminiscent illustrations.  Girls like to prank, too.  As a mother (who pranked) of three girls (all of whom prank), I can assure you that a girl likes to pull a trick just as much as a boy does.  But by the end of the book, I was getting the feeling that this was bad-girl-behaviour on my part.  Sexism aside, I found myself chuckling and snickering at several jokes, made mental notes of a few I’d like to pull (foaming toilet comes to mind), and shared several of the ideas with my kids and their friends.

Some excellent aspects of this book are that it is geared for kids who might not see science, history, math, etc, as subjects worthy of their attention, but this book promotes all these things, including explaining the science behind why a trick works.  Also, it encourages children to keep their rooms clean, do housework, get good grades, etc, so as to be above suspicion and to curry favor of the one who holds the purse strings.  It may be a little bit of bribery, but to me it seems more like psychology… while they may be doing good for nefarious reasons, they’ll be developing good habits that will outlast their prankery. 

A major thing I like about this book is that the author acknowledges “boys will be boys,” and you may as well try to rein them in to safety.  By repetitive instruction to NOT aim sling shots at people, not to use live animals in pranks, and to never do anything that might be unsafe, we can hope that students of the M3 will not harm themselves or those around them.  One particular inserted text box admonishes: 

Even though the first three letters of the word “catapult” spell “cat,” do not attempt to launch cats from catapults.  This goes for kittens also. -page 157

The author also stresses the point that not only should one’s prank not cause lasting damage, but the easier the clean-up the better.  He recommends using only water in water balloons, to use said balloons only in the summer AND near the pool, that way everyone can enjoy the joke (they’re hot and already planning to get wet). 

The only negative thoughts I have about the M3 is that it continually encourages the reader to trick people into giving them the things they need for a prank.  “Get your parents to buy the catapult kit by telling them you want to be an engineer!”  “If someone asks why you want the dry ice, tell them you’re having a party!” etc.  I find it irritating enough that children whine and beg for things, but to have a book tell them to lie and manipulate people to give you what you want, as well, is a bit disgusting.

All in all, though, I feel the M3 is a safe enough book to give to kids.  They might learn a little science in the process, and you may even find a few things to do with them, as well.  While it got a little boring after a while, and some of pranks’ directions were a little confusing, it gives a reader plenty of chuckles and inspires creativity and fun.  I give Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual 3 1/2  out of 5 stars.


The makers of the M3 have posted the following video on YouTube.  It shows how to commit 3 of the pranks detailed in the book.  Personally, I’d commence a beat down on my children for the “Coke Explosion,” which is why the book recommends you only pull pranks on people who can take a joke.   Like my mom always said, “Fun for one is no fun at all.”