A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A bit about dragon lore and Vikings.
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A picture of a bare-bottomed Viking with a mermaid tattooed on his backside.
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No swear words, but plenty of potty humor of the fart/belch/snot variety.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.