HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: How to Train Your Dragon
Author and Illustrator: Cressida Cowell
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, republished in 2010
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon (published in Great Britain in 2003 by Hodder Children’s Books; published in the United States in 2004 by Little Brown and Company, a division of the Hatchette Book Group Inc., 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10104). Ten year old Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is a young Viking who lives on the wild and windy isle of Berk with his father Stoik the Vast, fearful chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe, mother Valhallarama, and grandfather Old Wrinkley. Hiccup and nine of his friends, including Dogsbreath, Wartihog, and Snotlout, must each undergo the Dragon Initiation Test by capturing a dragon and training it. Unfortunately, though Hiccup has the rare advantage of speaking Dragonese, he ends up with a very small dragon which has no teeth. The others call it Toothless, and they refer to its master as Hiccup the Useless.
One day two gobsmackingly vast Sea Dragons (Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus), one known as Green Death and the other as Purple Death, come to Berk and threaten to destroy the island and eat up all the people. What can be done to stop them? Is there any way that Hiccup and Toothless can help? Or will they get fried along with everyone else. How to Train Your Dragon is Book 1 of the “Train Your Dragon” series. One character smokes a pipe, and a bit of childish slang occurs as the word “fart” is used and there are several references to dragons “pooing.” The biggest objection I saw was the charge that “the books are full of disrespect to the adults, and authority in general, portraying the children as geniuses and the adults as buffoons who need to be rescued and enlightened in every book.”
It is true that some of Hiccup’s friends are disrespectful bullies, but Hiccup himself is a nice boy, and the rowdy ones eventually get their comeuppance. I would basically consider it harmless–and it is funny. Perhaps things get worse in the later books. However, the short chapters, slapstick comedy, and rollicking action make them appealing to reluctant readers. Even though he is now twenty years old, our younger son really likes the movies and television shows by DreamWorks Animation based on the series. Several people have expressed the opinion that the animated versions are actually better than the books. The lead character was first introduced in author Cressida Cowell’s 2000 children’s picture book Hiccup: The Seasick Viking, and there are eleven sequels to How to Train Your Dragon, the last one. How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury, published in 2015.