I 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!