A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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, was released in 2019. An audiobook version is narrated by David Tennant.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- Author: Cressida Cowell
- Illustrator: Cressida Cowell
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Ocean Creatures, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
- Publication date: May 1, 2004
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 214
- Last updated: September 25, 2020
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