I absolutely adored Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon, so I tried looking for the book it was based on. It was sold-out at the local bookstores the first few weeks after the film was released, but my boyfriend managed to snag a copy for me.
“I was not the sort of boy who could train a dragon with a mere lifting of an eyebrow. I was not a natural at the Heroism business. I had to work at it. This is the story of becoming a Hero the Hard Way.”
– Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III
How to Train Your Dragon opens with the above introduction from Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, one of the greatest Vikings that ever lived. The rest of the book tells the story of his humble beginnings as a young failure of a Viking who was clumsy and disliked violence, and was practically forced into dragon training. His first task in dragon training was to actually capture a dragon from a cave occupied by three thousand sleeping dragons. Hiccup winds up with a tiny, toothless dragon, which makes him the laughing stock of his class.
The next part of their lessons involved being able to control the beast, to tame it and make it obey their commands by Thors’day Thursday, where all the trainees were expected to show off their dragons and their skills as dragon trainers in a The training process proves to be a challenge for Hiccup, who seems to lack the natural ability to train his dragon in the traditional fashion, and this difficulty is further compounded by the fact that his dragon is stubborn and selfish. Hiccup is then forced to seek out non-traditional methods of training his dragon – the “Hard Way”, as he himself put it.
This was a quick read for me, as can be expected when a 23-year-old reads a children’s book. The humorous dialogues and situations combined with the comedic, childish illustrations that litter the book’s pages, makes How to Train Your Dragon very light-hearted and fun. Like the film, the book places emphasis on how Hiccup manages to prove his worth through intelligence and wit rather than sheer brute strength.
Though entertaining enough, the book does have a few shortcomings. For one, the illustrations tend to draw the attention away from the text, especially those whole pages of information about the different dragon breeds that were inconveniently located in the middle of a paragraph. This made the reading experience kind of confusing. The font changes that occur when characters are yelling or when Hiccup speaks Draconic is an eyesore, and it made it a bit difficult to read. I also found the use of comparisons to contemporary things (I distinctly recall something being compared to rugby, but I don’t remember what it was exactly) to be slightly off-putting, especially since the book presented itself as the memoirs of a Viking who lived many, many years before those things even existed.
Regardless of the flaws that may serve as turn-offs for older readers, How to Train Your Dragon is an entertaining read that I’m sure adventurous children (especially young boys) will love. It’s a simple story with lessons on self-confidence, friendship, and perseverance, presented in a manner that any kid will surely enjoy. Even though it’s a short novel and not a picture book, it still seems like a book that might be fun to read aloud.