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How to Train Your Dragon: The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
How to Train Your Dragon: The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Engaging story is great for reluctant readers.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 17 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A bit about dragon lore and Vikings. 

Positive Messages

Believe in yourself. Brains can be better than brawn.

Violence & Scariness

A deer is torn to pieces, a dragon attacks a boy, a boy is swallowed by a dragon but survives, an army legion is eaten by a dragon, a dragon blows up.


No swear words, but plenty of potty humor of the fart/belch/snot variety.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Cressida Cowell's How to Train Your Dragon is the first in a 10-volume series about a gentle young Viking boy, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, who must prove he can catch and train a dragon to pass a Viking initiation test. There's a bit of violence (a deer is torn to pieces, a dragon attacks a boy, a boy is swallowed by a dragon but survives, an army legion is eaten by a dragon, a dragon blows up) but no graphic descriptions. There's plenty of potty humor (farts, snot) -- the kind that 8-year-old boys find irresistible. This is a great choice for reluctant readers. The book is the first of a series, and it was adapted for the animated film How to Train Your Dragon, which inspired the sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2 and the video game How to Train Your Dragon. A third film in the franchise, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, is set for release Fe. 22, 2019.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 2 and 6 year old Written bysjjess September 24, 2012

I am glad I discovered this series.

My son just turned six and is pretty sensitive, so I try to be careful with what he reads, especially since he is reading himself now. I think this book is a f... Continue reading
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old Written byJojano July 26, 2010

Skip this book and go straight to the movie.

I tried reading this book out-loud to my kids (ages 9 & 7) since the movie was coming out, and I found that we never finished the book. My kids just we... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMavrah333 August 10, 2014

A classic series.

One of my favourite book series of all time, beating the film in almost every aspect (the film is rubbish! I would rather pay £5 to see a poorly made lego versi... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 5, 2011

Great. Just great.

The "How To Train Your Dragon" series is great! Some of the plots in this series include: training a dragon (as said in the first book's title),... Continue reading

What's the story?

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is the son of Stoick the Vast, chief of the old Viking Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans. Hiccup, though reasonably stoic, is not very vast. Nevertheless he, like the other boys his age, must pass the tribal initiation test: capture and train a dragon for use in hunting. The dragon that Hiccup manages to snag, though, is tiny and not very trainable, even though Hiccup has the unusual skill of talking Dragonese. But when the tribe is beset by a mountain-size sea dragon, Hiccup's brains and his dragon's orneriness may be more useful than brawn.

Is it any good?

Middle-grade boys, especially reluctant readers, are going to love this. Author Cressida Cowell has taken a character from one of her picture books, Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick, and wrapped a novel around him. It's filled with humor both broad (characters have names such as Gobber the Belch and Snotface Snotlout) and snarky, with crude but amusing illustrations by the author.

Of course, humor of this sort is shooting fish in a barrel: All it really takes to get 8-year-old boys snorting milk out their noses is to say "poop" or "underpants." Fortunately, author Cowell also offers an appealing protagonist and a story that, though predictable, is entertaining and often exciting in a format that's clever yet easy to read.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dragons. Why are they so popular in fairytales, books, and movies? Why are we so fascinated by them?  

  • If you've seen the movie How to Train Your Dragon, how do you think the book compares? 

  • What do you think about initiation rites? Do you think it's a good idea for societies to have tests that children must pass before they're considered adults? Do we have any initiation rites in our own culture? 

Book details

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