Monday, June 18, 2012

Book Nook - How to Train Your Dragon - series

How To Train Your Dragon (books 1-8), by Cressida Cowell:

A while ago, I wrote a post about How to Train Your Dragon (you can find it here).  We enjoyed the first book so much, that we ended up reading all 8 of them.

The series is very consistent: humorous writing, great characters, a quick pace & lots of action.  Hiccup and his friends have all sorts of adventures, like trying to steal a potato from the Hysterics tribe, finding a rare fire stone and throwing it into an about-to-explode volcano & sailing to America, to name a few.  Along the way, they encounter lots of bad guys and assorted dragons.

What the Bachsters (and I) loved about the series was the great story.  Cowell is a talented author & her books are just lots of fun to read.  The Bachsters were really excited every night when we sat down with the story, and would always beg me to read just one more chapter.

For me, the downside to the books was the violence in them (although this didn't seem to affect or bother the Bachsters at all).  I think the violence gets a little more serious as you get farther into the series, with bad guys out to seriously kill Hiccup.  He has one-on-one sword fights in a couple of books, and the fact that he is fighting to the death is not glossed over.  Interestingly, he never gets hurt, and no one dies (well, at least not by Hiccup's doing - one bad guy falls off a ship, into the sea with a huge dragon waiting below).  In the last book, Hiccup's tribe (the Hooligans) is camping on a haunted beach and the members are all awoken by the invading Uglithug tribe, holding a knife to each Hooligan's throat.  I was bothered by all the violence, and especially since there were adults that were out to harm kids.  But Cowell manages to create situations where there is violence, followed by an outcome where no one gets hurt (well, except for Norbert the Nutjob who fell off the ship, as mentioned above).  In fact, she usually writes it off in some kind of humorous way (for instance, Hiccup's archrival, Alvin the Treacherous might get hurt, but then pops up in the next book with a wooden nose).  I'm not sure what this lighthearted approach to violence and situations of life-or-death means to our young readers.  Maybe it's a good thing that Cowell doesn't focus too much on the seriousness of it all.  There are different ways to look at it I suppose, but there's a lot of violence in the books, and I questioned myself several times if we should continue the series.

Anyway, I would like to mention that the characters in the book are great.  There's Hiccup, our hero, who is dedicated, loyal, brave....all those hero qualities you would expect.  But he's a great protagonist, and never gets dull.  His little dragon is Toothless, who likes to sleep at inopportune times, eat things he shouldn't (like a magnet), and go poo in the bad guy's helmet.  Hiccup's friends are Fishlegs (who is apprehensive and asthmatic) and Camicazi (a Bog Burglar who can't be kept under lock and key).  Each book brings out more and more details about these characters, and it's fun to spend time with them.

I can't help but compare this series with Harry Potter, so if you and/or your kids are fans of that series, chances are you'll enjoy this one.   They're both a series with great adventures, strong characters and special friendships, not to mention they're a lot of fun to read.


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