How to Train Your Dragon
by Hiccup the Viking, as told to Cressida Cowell
This is not the movie. Dreamworks basically took the title of the book and the name of the main character and very little else from the “source material.” The movie is good, but if you’re looking for an expansion of the universe in the movie presented in prose form, you ain’t gonna find it here.
What you will find is a delightful little story aimed at boys with good enough humor to keep an adult’s interest. As I read, I kept thinking it was a cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Lord of the Rings. It also has that charming old-school Disney quality, where it appeals to both kids and adults on very different levels. It’s clearly geared at grade-school boys; not all the humor is… sophisticated. Yet, there’s more than enough asides to keep an adult’s attention.
Hiccup is the chief’s son. He’s expected to catch and train a dragon before Thor’sday Thursday, when all the boys of the tribe will show off their dragons and be declared men. Hiccup isn’t looking to make a big splash; he just wants to survive. Of course, most of the other boys pick on him. His cousin Snotlout openly challenges Hiccup for the future chieftainship of the tribe.
Step one: steal a dragon as the hibernate in a huge cave. Hiccup barely gets out alive, and the dragon he gets is worse than useless, while Snotlout grabbed a breed of dragon reserved for the chief. Things get worse from there.
(And yes, if you’re keeping track and comparing with the movie plotline, you know already that a lot has been changed!)
The book comes thick with illustrations from Hiccup himself, a ‘la Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s very much in character and fun, though I found that the number and size of the illustrations made this short book an even faster read. Yeah, yeah, I get it: it’s aimed at boys who probably don’t do a whole lot of reading, so less words in this case is actually a good thing.
The story and characters are fun. They’re not complicated. You won’t find terrible angst or complicated love stories. In fact, as I recall, the only female character in the book is Hiccup’s mom, and she’s more mentioned in passing. Then again, this is aimed at boys, not teen girls.
Check it out if you have grade-school boys (or younger if you like reading to them). There is some “boyish” humor, so be forewarned if you’re sensitive to that. I just rolled my eyes and kept reading. Check out your library; I read the entire thing in well under twenty-four hours during a busy work-week. If you’re sensitive to pagecount to dollar, this may not be your thing.
I did enjoy it, though. It was a pleasant distraction that caused me to smile more than once.