How to Train Your Dragon

how to train your dragonI just returned from a short road trip to Portland, OR with my two children (aged, incredibly, 11 and 8.) The trip from where I live in Spokane is about 6 hours each direction, so naturally I got the requisite materials to make it go smoothly: snacks, a small bag of entertaining items, and a selection of audiobooks. On the way there, we listened to Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon. Since none of the three of us had read any of the books or seen any of the films, this turned out to be the perfect choice.

How to Train Your Dragon is about (and, actually, theoretically by) Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third. He is a small, weedy, rather useless adolescent Viking from the island of Berk, where Only the Strong Belong. Hiccup doesn’t belong (and neither does his best friend, Fishlegs.) He’s no good at bashyball or advanced rudeness; he can’t run fast or yell loudly; he isn’t heartless or cruel; and now that he’s supposed to go and get himself a dragon to train, he just knows he’s going to be exiled from the tribe instead.

Well, Hiccup does get his dragon, a Common or Garden dragon about the size of a Highland terrier, named Toothless (guess why.) The story of how Hiccup learns to train his dragon and makes himself a hero The Hard Way is consistently funny, even if it borrows heavily from Tolkien in spots. It’s not… shall we say… unpredictable? I rather wished that the message that was forming early in the book (that there should be space for ordinary people in a tribe, and that Only the Strong Belong is kind of a bogus slogan) had been fully delivered. But it’s a lot of fun, nonetheless, and my kids gasped and ooohed and laughed along with it, right up to the end.

The one thing that did surprise me about this book was that there were absolutely no girls in it. Not a single girl. There was one Viking mother in the background, but she had no lines. Given that this book was written in 2003, I found that… odd. It didn’t by any means spoil my enjoyment, but I haven’t read a book written about an all-male environment — and certainly not one for children — in yonks. Huh!

I haven’t told you the very best part, though. The narrator of this audiobook (and part of the reason I chose this one) is David Tennant. He did the most amazing job (because of course he did) and I enjoyed every single second of his performance. It was an absolute joy to listen to, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly as an audiobook. I think I’ll look for more of what he’s read!

This entry was posted in Audiobooks, Children's / YA Lit, Fiction, Speculative Fiction. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to How to Train Your Dragon

  1. I hear excellent things about David Tennant as an audiobook narrator, so I’m not surprised you were pleased with him! Are y’all going to watch the movie now? I watched it a few weeks ago and was surprised by how charming and great it was, my expectations having been quite low.

    • Jenny says:

      I think I might try to get it from the library. As far as I can tell, the movie is quite different from the book, so it should be a completely other experience — which is fine, of course.

  2. realthog says:

    The animated movie based on the series does, by contrast, have a central female character, Astrid.

    • Jenny says:

      Perhaps they noticed the same thing I did! I see there are actually quite a few major differences between the films and the books.

  3. I didn’t realize this was a longer book! I thought it was a picture book. Yes, as the “realthog” metioned, there is a female character in the book, Astrid, played by America Ferrera, and also a goonish twin named Ruffnut, played by Kristen Wiig. In the film, Vikings don’t choose dragons to train, they kill them, but Hiccup finds one to keep as a pet/friend! It’s a good movie! In the second one, you find out what happened to that distant mother.

    • Jenny says:

      I think there may be a picture book associated with the series, but the twelve books are all chapter books. My word, the idea that the tribe would kill the dragons instead of train them is completely different. I think I prefer the book version!

  4. Jeane says:

    Hey, I’ve read this one. I also noticed there were no girls, but found it entertaining regardless. There’s a whole series of them- my library has twelve, but I only ever read up thru #5. Quality didn’t quite seem the same at that point…

  5. Jeane says:

    A different series of adventures in each one- and new dragons and characters show up along the way. Oh, and there’s girls in some of the other books too…

  6. lailaarch says:

    These are pretty popular in my library branch, but I’ve never read them. I’ll keep them in mind when my little guy is a bit older – and having David Tennant narrate the audiobook is a big plus!

  7. Linda says:

    David Tennant narrates My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher and I *highly* recommend it. It was my library’s community read a couple of years ago because it’s just such a great story about families and grief and bigotry. Tennant’s narration wonderfully captures the exuberance of the young protagonist. I loved it!

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