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

Engaging story is great for reluctant readers.

What parents need to know

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.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's little to be concerned with in Cressida Cowell's How to Train Your Dragon. 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

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?


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 -- and middle-grade boys, especially reluctant readers, are going to love it. 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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Cressida Cowell
Illustrator:Cressida Cowell
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
Number of pages:214
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8
Read alone:9

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 11 years old May 5, 2011
age 6+

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), saving The Hairy Hooligans, escaping Romans, and stealing a potato (it makes much more sense in context). Hiccup, Fishlegs, and Camicazi make a great team. I think it's better than the movie.
Kid, 9 years old April 10, 2011
age 9+

Way better than the dumb movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This book is pricelessly great. It has funny moments like when Gobber was thrown by the Seadragonise Maximunis. Suspense like when Hiccup thought Toothless was dead. Better then the movie and that's a promise.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models
Teen, 14 years old Written byMavrah333 August 10, 2014
age 7+

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 version of this film which follows the story of the books than to see the dreamworks rubbish for free) And now a message to DreamWorks: Do you honestly think you're funny messing up these books? Seriously. Your films are boring, and everyone who likes them had no childhood. You're a load of ignorant idiots who enjoy stealing children's souls, and when I catch up with you there will be consequences. You have been warned!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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