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My book reviews usually trend toward papercrafting and multimedia collage, with a healthy dose of whimsy thrown in for fun. Depending on your point of view, Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction 2: Build A Secret Agent Arsenal could be said to combine all three. Regardless of its genre, it has kept my 15-year-old son and I occupied and inspired for many afternoons.

Imagine Macgyver and James Bond trapped in an office supply store, and you have a good idea of the projects featured in Mini Weapons 2. The projects require a selection of cannibalized office supply parts (ballpoint pen housings, disassembled binder clips, empty glue stick tubes, and mechanical pencil innards, to name a few), held together with liberal amounts of hot glue and duct tape.

As if that wasn’t cool enough, author John Austin also calls for a variety of candies and their packaging, ranging from Mentos gum containers (ammo clips) to Altoids tins (catapult housings). All the book’s directions are detailed and easy to follow, and every step features a full-scale diagram to be sure you understand steps like “disassemble a plastic ballpoint pen by removing the tip and ink cartridge.”

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The mom in me appreciates that we have such an entertaining way to re-use all the flotsam of everyday life, from orphaned pen caps to empty tape dispensers. The dried-out highlighter that used to go in the trash now gets harvested for parts: its housing is the Golden Gun barrel, and its cap becomes the sight on a Shark with Laser Beam. How can you resist a book that reminds you to save the cap of your used glue stick for a Q-tip blowgun?

Our most recent creation is a candy-calliber PPK that fires balloon-propelled Tic-Tac ammo at distances of up to eight feet. (Not exactly deadly force, but enough to fuel energetic gun fights that send candy flying and our toy poodle scurrying for cover.) The picture below, taken mid-assembly, gives you a good idea of the sort of items used. Right now, we are saving up pieces for the Rubber Band Derringer and a mini-Bowler Hat Launcher that would make Oddjob proud. If we don’t have all the supplies needed, a quick trip to the dollar store always suffices, but we try to use what we have on hand as much as possible.

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Life carries some weighty responsibilities, and there always seems to be another load of dishes to wash and another errand to run. But I say, if you’re too busy to build a watch that fires paper darts, then it’s time for some re-prioritizing. :)

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(Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction 2: Build A Secret Agent Arsenal; Chicago Review Press: 2011; ISBN 978-1569767160)

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