Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: How To Train Your Dragon Series

So, not long ago, I was talking to Wench Barb and I thought, "you know, what about Wenches that are Toys'R'Us kids?"  You remember the jingle - I don't wanna grow up, I'm a Toys'R'Us kid...  You're welcome for the earworm.  Anyway, the thought went, what about wenches who, for whatever reason, love children's lit? They have kids at home and are looking for read-alouds, or the Next Great Book to try out themselves?  And so, here I am.  I fit both those categories, actually. And I need books that aren't Harry Potter, because my son and I have read those to death already!  And so off I went, in search of something, anything, to read at bedtime that wouldn't bore me to death, but would also hold the munchkin's interest. Not exactly an easy task. Anyway, about a year and a half ago, How To Train Your Dragon 2 hit theaters. What's the big thing bookstores do when books are made into visual media? You betcha. BIG DISPLAY. So, I picked up the first book - How To Train Your Dragon. I figured, what the heck, it can't hurt, right?

Follow me through the jump and I'll tell you how it went!

I brought it home, and we started using it as a bedtime story nearly immediately. By the time we had finished, it was almost my son's birthday, and he'd enjoyed the book so much that he got books two and three - and the movie - for his birthday.

Allow me to pause this train right here. Upon watching the movie, the very first thing I learned was that "Based upon the How To Train Your Dragon book series by Cressida Cowell" actually means "we ganked some character and place names, and the bulk of a dragon hierarchy from this series, but literally NOTHING ELSE is the same."  Don't go into the movies expecting anything like we saw from Harry Potter.  Just sayin'.

And now, allow me to continue.  The book series is written as a series of memoirs from Hiccup, an ill-fitting Viking teen whose sole ambition is to be dubbed "Hiccup the Useful." His dragon is the smallest, laziest Common or Garden dragon anyone has ever seen, and he hasn't any teeth at all.  But, for some reason, Hiccup is drawn to this little stinker, and so the pair are matched. The books are each a tale from the life of Hiccup, once he's old and gray, which tempers some of the childlike anxiety one suffers as Hiccup gets into one dire predicament after another - he's gotta live through it, 'cause he's the one writing the memoirs! I actually really appreciate that in children's literature - taking the time to point out that the hero of the story survives, without actively beating the reader over the head with it.


In the end, Hiccup and Toothless save the day, and Snotlout (along with Dogsbreath the Duhbrain) is left to sulk over his position of Not The Heir of the Chief of the Tribe. The books (at least the first two, that's as far as we are on our reread!) have their moments of nailbiting as we wonder what's going to happen to Hiccup, and how he (and usually Fishlegs) are going to get out of it this time, but they're all told with a kind of self-deprecating humor that allows the understated cleverness of our hero to shine through.

That, in and of itself is a mighty fine reason to enjoy these books.  But let me set you up with the real reason I'll recommend them to everyone I know:


2 comments:

  1. I don't have kids of my own but I do have a lot of great nieces and nephews. I can think of at least two of them that would like these books so thanks. I haven't read them but I have seen the movies. I love Gerard Butler (Hiccup's dad) and Craig Ferguson (Gobber).

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    1. Agreed! The voice casting is fantastic, and while it's a far cry from the movies, the books really very good. <3

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