August 12, 2009 / 3:13 AM / 8 years ago

Who's your hero? Authors hope to inspire youngsters

CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Most people know Florence Nightingale and Horatio Nelson but what about British adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes or World War Two hero Nancy Wakes, also known as "The White Mouse?"

Realizing that some heroes from history were being forgotten or misplaced, authors Conn and David Iggulden set out to bring these figures back to life as well as highlight some modern heroes in a book covering the lives of 42 extraordinary people.

They were concerned that heroes had been ditched from school curricula, leaving the younger generation without inspirational role models.

"In schools in Britain and Australia they are just not teaching these people any more in history, partly because it's not PC (politically correct) and partly because of changes to the curriculum," Australian-based David Iggulden told Reuters.

"People now do not know how amazing someone like Nelson was. This takes away an icon to inspire people to be better, to rise to difficult situations, and the younger generation is losing its way without strong role models."

Iggulden said the book, "The Dangerous Book of Heroes," included some major figures of history but also some lesser known people to demonstrate that anyone can be a hero.

Take the story of Lisa Potts, a former British nursery teacher, who was faced with a machete-wielding schizophrenic in the playground at her Wolverhampton school in England in 1996.

Despite suffering horrific injuries herself, Potts, then 21, kept returning to the playground to rescue 18 children.

"She had done nothing heroic in her life beforehand. She had to decide at the time whether to go out and save those children or stay inside," said Iggulden.

"A decision like that affects the rest of your life, whichever decision you make ... If you have a record of what other people have done then it might make the decision a bit easier to make."

A U.S. version of the book includes, for example, the case of United Airlines Flight 93 when the passengers fought back after the plane was hijacked on September 11, 2001, with the plane eventually crashing and all on board losing their lives.

The book also looks at Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's conquest of Everest, how Australian doctor Bruce Hunt saved hundreds of lives along the Death Railway, and the wild bravery of soldiers and seamen such as John Churchill and Horatio Nelson.

The book starts with Fiennes, who was shortlisted for the role of James Bond, expelled from the SAS for attempting to blow up a film set, used a powertool to saw off his frostbitten fingers, and in May this year climbed Everest.

Iggulden said the hardest part was narrowing down the list as it covered heroes from 1066 to the present, so one rule was no kings and queens, politicians or sports people.

"History now is taught as a very general subject and not thought of as important ... but it is hard to move forward if you don't know here you are coming from," said Iggulden.

Conn Iggulden struck publishing gold in 2006 when he released "The Dangerous Book for Boys," written with one of his other brothers, Hal, which revisited all their favorite, and unelectronic, childhood activities such as conker fighting, tying knots and building toy planes.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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