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

Common Sense Media says

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

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?


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

This review of How to Train Your Dragon: The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, Book 1 was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
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  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 8 years old July 8, 2010
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 4, 6, and 7 year old Written byElfin May 8, 2010

A good multi-day quick read for wall-climbers

I just finished reading this to my 8,6, and 4 year olds. The 4 year old didn't really understand most of it, but the 8 and 6 year olds liked it a lot (the 8 year old read ahead on his own). It's a good bedtime book because the chapters are short. There's a lot of opportunity for the reader to YELL, and there can be some scary parts, so it appeals to the more rambunctious kids. My kids caught on surprisingly well to the idea that there are many ways to "be a hero." I thought the book did well indicating that there were many ways to be not-so-heroic also. It wasn't a brains-against-jocks as much as I'd thought.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 10 years old December 6, 2010

An extravagent book.

I loved this book, but i haven't seen the film yet. It has a little bit of violence and bullying, but nothing too bad. Hiccup is a good role model because he always tries his absolute best to succeed, and is always a hero. I hope you enjoy this book as well.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models


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