Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon
The first thing parents should know about Cressida Cowell’s “How To Train Your Dragon” books are that they bear almost no resemblance to the immensely popular “How To Train Your Dragon” movies. Although the main characters are Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and his dragon Toothless, the similarities between the books and movies end there. In the book, Hiccup, heir to the Hairy Hooligan Viking tribe, is a hapless Viking. He is below average in all his Viking classes, and a perpetual disappointment to his father, Chief of the Hairy Hooligans, Stoick the Vast. So when Hiccup captures a small and incredibly stubborn common garden dragon (Toothless) to train as his very own hunting dragon, he is made once again the butt of his peer’s taunts. Hiccup, however, soon realizes that he is able to speak Dragonese, a rare gift, and is able to win his small dragon’s loyalty. But will that win the respect of his fellow Vikings?
The story is narrated by Hiccup in his old age, as he is reminiscing on his many exploits as a Viking hero and Chief. While certainly there are many instances of less-than-ideal pirate behavior (spitting, teasing and fighting), there are also many good discussion opportunities in this book. Hiccup gains Toothless’s trust and loyalty by talking to him rather than the accepted Viking method of ‘Yelling Loudly!’ This is a great chance to discuss with kids different communication styles. And Hiccup perseveres through the taunts of his peers and his poor academic performance to become a great Viking Hero and Chief, illustrating how persistence pays off.
The characters are uniquely written and entirely relatable, the plot is fast-paced and the jokes abound. Currently there are twelve published books in the How To Train Your Dragon series. The books build on each other so are best read in order, and the plots do become successively more intricate and slightly scarier. However, if your youngster persists to the ninth or tenth book, they will be sufficiently hooked to the series to be able to weather the twists. The final book in the series has yet to be published.
This would be a great book to read aloud to 6 year olds and older (younger children would still enjoy it, however, they may require more explanations) or for an 8 year olds or older to read alone. This would be about 2 to 2 ½ weeks of bedtime reading as the chapters are short, although certainly you could finish it aloud in a shorter amount of time, especially if you give into the pleas of “just a bit more Mama!”