How to Train Your Dragon, written and illustrated by Cressida Cowell:
Before I forget to mention this, have you ever seen the Tournament of Books? It's a March tradition (sort of like March Madness) - if you love books, definitely check it out. There are lots of great discussions (from the judges and the comments section) and you might just find a real gem of a book to read. Here is the website.
How to Train Your Dragon came to the Bach house by way of the movie, which is a very exciting adventure, yet is totally different from the book. If you liked one, I would encourage you to check out the other, because they are both a lot of fun.
In the story, young Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third, son of the chief of the Hairy Hooligan Viking tribe, tells the tale of how he became a hero (an unlikely hero). The story starts right off with adventure, with Hiccup and a group of young boys, going through an initiation of sorts to become full-fledged tribal members: they must enter a cave, situated on some very precarious cliffs, approach the dragon lair, and each boy must capture one of the sleeping beasts. The idea is to then be able to train this dragon to do tasks for you, like catch fish. Things go wrong for Hiccup, as they always do, but he manages to get a dragon and make it out alive. The problem is, his dragon is so tiny and non-sinister, that he is named Toothless by one of boys in the group. Hiccup has to work with what he's got, so he sets out on the task of training Toothless, which proves to be a big challenge, considering that dragons are inherently selfish and greedy. But Hiccup has some tricks up his sleeve, including knowing a lot more about dragons than anyone else, and being able to speak dragonese.
As I mentioned, there is a lot of action in the book. We had trouble putting it down after a chapter or two for the nightly bedtime story. And the story hooks you right away with all that adventure. But there's a lot more here to enjoy besides a great plot. I loved the characters - Hiccup, Toothless, the boys in the initiation group, the adults......for being a rather short book, these characters really "pop." Perhaps some of the bullying boys are a bit stereotypical, but really, in Hiccup's situation, I'm not surprised he got some jealous teasing.
The best part of the story is the humor. Author Cressida Cowell pokes fun at everything and everyone, and has such a great sense of humor throughout the story. Gobber The Belch, who has the task of leading the boys to the cliff for their dragon-lair-experience, stole a book from the Meathead Public Library entitled How to Train Your Dragon, written by Professor Yobbish. Cowell takes up five or six pages of illustrating Professor Yobbish's book, including the title page, publishers information, author dedication, due date stamps (May 16 866 AD is the last date stamped), etc. All that for a book that consists of 17 words (including "The End"). In the back-cover praise for the book, The Hooligan Observer states, "This is a sensitive and well-researched book that contains all the information you need to turn your dragon into a pussy cat." My 6-year-old thought this was hilarious, and made me read it over and over for two nights straight!
I'm not really sure the age that this book is geared towards, but I would guess 9 or 10 year old boys. I say boys because there is only one female in the entire story (besides one of the dragons) - Hiccup's mother, Valhallarama - whose bra the boys use to bomb a dragon with feathers to make him sneeze. And I think an older child will be able to handle some of the violence in the book (dragons trying to eat our hero, that sort of thing). There are also a myriad of assorted poop & nose picking jokes. So, yes, you can see that this is heavy juvenile boy territory! But great fun nontheless, I think, for just about any kid, and their grown-up, who wants to enjoy a good laugh.