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on August 1, 2006
This book is the first in a series about a group of young boys embarking on a journey to become part of their village's viking clan. The boys must each capture a dragon and train it. The book is surprisingly engaging and very funny. The characters speak as you would imagine young vikings would - crude little-boy speak about snot and such, the dragons speak their own language, which you can learn throughout books in this series, and the author's narrative is sublime literary prose. With this blend, Cowell has the most unique literary style I have ever read! Parents will love the quick pace and unique style, boys will think it's cool, and girls will giggle.
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on July 8, 2010
I am one of the lucky generation that got to experience this book as a child, right in the prime 7-12 demographic it is intended for.

I can tell you with all honesty, I have kept it within reach of my bed for about six years now, even as I have grown to love Shakespeare, Huxley, and quite a few other old masters during my literature-loving days of high school.

(And I see you giving me that funny look- a scribbly little book about a crazed pack of Vikings and an ineffectively housebroken dragon? I am dead serious, and not ashamed to admit it.)

This book is a gem, and a keeper. I have only grown to love it more, now that I, thanks to some great Lit classes, have the tools to REALLY appreciate it. The recent Dreamworks movie, alike in the basics down to its snarky little hero, yet differing completely in conception, has only strengthened this love.

It's a very simple story, with a very simple hero.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is small, skinny, and rather unremarkable. He isn't particularly good at sports, prefers a civil conversation to a fistfight, and can almost spell "motivation" correctly.

In other words, he's a terrible Viking. Being son of the Chief and The Hope and Heir of the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans doesn't help matters much.

Following the ancient traditions of his clan, he and his fellow novices are ordered to capture, raise and train their own dragons in preparation for an all-important initiation ceremony. However, the dragon that Hiccup gets saddled with (and I do not mean that literally, ya movie buffs), though pint-sized and completely toothless, proves to be more than his little trainer can handle using the traditional Viking method (YELL AT IT). Consequently, Hiccup begins to design his own training techniques, talking directly to the beasts rather than relying on intimidation.

When a disaster occurs at the Initiation and a rather ominous Seadragonous Giganticus Maximus (or two) washes up on the shores of Berk, it is up to Hiccup and his crazy new ideas to save his tribe from Certain (Green) Death, and thereby prove himself.

For a book about the crude, violent shenanigans of (author-professed) historically inaccurate Vikings, it is unexpectedly deep. In fact, there's some very genuine, down-to-earth morals and wisdom here that I have only noticed by effectively growing up with this book. (Don't look at me that way! I'm serious!) The movie only scratched the surface of what this book really has to offer when it told the tale of a strange little Viking who ends up succeeding thanks to his strangeness.

"How to Train Your Dragon" is fundamentally a book about problems and how to solve them. It's about putting things in perspective. It explores (a la Hamlet, actually) the equalizing quality of Death. It examines (with incredible humor) the helplessness one can feel under the onslaught of a violent, misguided world, and how eccentricity can be valuable in an environment plagued with stagnant values. It, like the rest of Cowell's Hiccup books, shows a hero who would much rather talk things out with his foe than barge into violence.

The great irony of this book is that the dragon never gets "trained"- at least, not in the way you'd expect it to be. While exuberant, melodramatic and even crude in her execution, Cowell is completely down-to-earth when it comes to the real truths of life.

I will proudly read this, and the other Hiccup books, to my kids.

Aside from being a silent genius, Cowell is a pure delight to read. She plunges into the story unafraid, flinging sea-salt, sarcasm, and excessive capitalization everywhere. The combined effect of her wild, scribbly illustrations and her zany descriptions brings to mind an animated cartoon- it's all very cinematic, and it's not surprising at all that someone felt the itch to make a movie from it. If I made this book sound like a introspective epic, I will tell you now, it's NOT. It's a very light-hearted melodrama with a loose sense of logic, that evokes the bright, brave exuberance of Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake.

Fare carefully, though, sailor- Cowell's humor is colorful and varied. You'll find light humor, black humor, sarcasm, irony and slapstick- there are a few intelligent jokes and lot of really stupid ones. (The Vikings- aside from Hiccup- aren't really known for their eloquent communication skills.)

If there is a low point about this book (and the other Hiccup books), it is that Cowell delights in the disgusting, and is unafraid to make you cringe- snot and excrement are not only discussed- they actually mark significant plot points.

Still, if you can stomach a few (thankfully brief) bathroom gags, a few risque plays on words such as "Big Axe Books", and a distinct lack of female characters (Hiccup's mother- very much alive- is the only one of consequence, who shows up for about four sentences total), you're in for a real treat. If nothing else, it is a very entertaining read that will give your kids the giggles, and give you an opportunity to stretch your acting skills: with its gruff Viking yellers, sarcastic heroes, and self-satisfied dragons, the book BEGS to be read out loud.

(By the way, the book is worth reading for its incarnation of the Green Death alone- he's quite the suave, self-satisfied philosopher of sorts, a fabulous villain that wasn't quite given his full dues in the movie version, because the dragons didn't talk. Hiccup's grandfather Old Wrinkly, the old Gobber, the real role of Snotlout as the ultimate bully, and the original, best-friend role of Fishlegs need some love as well. Plus, unlike the movie, there are no amputees! (That's all in the second book. Har har har.))

This has steadily been one of my favorite books for six years, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

And if you like this little book at all, be sure to check out Hiccup's next adventure, How to Train Your Dragon Book 2: How to Be a Pirate. It's a blast!
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on January 11, 2006
The book is fantastic, great story fun illustrations and a great read-a-loud.

However... There are some bad copies of it floating around where a group of pages are doubled up and a group of pages are missing. If you order this wonderful gem, be sure to check the pages around 121-152. Unfortunately this is at one of the very exciting parts of the story so best to find out before beginning reading.

Fortunately the publisher is very friendly and helpful about replacing mis-produced books and you just have to contact their customer service to remedy the situation.

So do enjoy this little treasure.
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on April 26, 2006
This book looks younger than it really is in both vocabulary and humor. My ten year old girl read it and loved it. The humor is very entertaining. I read it to my 8 year old son at bedtime as well and we all enjoyed it. I recommend this book for 7-12 year old children.
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on September 14, 2013
This is a story about a very unheroic viking named Hiccup who is in the process of training and must learn to become a hero, as he is the son of Stoick the Vast. In this series he learns how to train his dragon, become a pirate, speak Dragonese, and other adventures.

Things to know:
I like this book because it is very funny and adventurous.
It sometimes uses bad words (like stupid, dumb, neff off, idiot), but since they're pirates they're supposed to say them.
Sometimes it's scary, but not too scary. Just enough scary for you to get a little chill in your bones, but you know that since there are more books, obviously the character has to survive.

I am nine years old and I recommend these books to people who like humorous adventure stories.
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on June 4, 2006
This book was very fun to read! Emma- age 6
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on July 24, 2006
I have a really hard time finding age-appropriate fun books for my 6th grade son. There's tons of stuff for girls, but my son....wow. Really tough. He ATE this book up! He asked if we could get the Pirate one and the second dragon book in the series.
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on February 5, 2015
How to Train your Dragon is one of my favorite movies. The book reminds of the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. Very well written, but no relation to the movies. The title is the same, some of the characters have the same names, the overall subject is kinda vaguely similar, but that's it.

Having said that, Ian Fleming wrote some very good spy stories (and far more realistic than the movies). The Viking Universe of the Cressida Cowell's books is almost completely different than the movies (save for the characters names), but it's charming, hilarious and sometimes deeply insightful.

This is a "children's" books that I've already given as gifts to adults. I'm looking forward to collecting the rest of the series, and will probably reread them on rainy days.
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on January 23, 2005
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock is supposed to one day lead the Viking tribe that is currently ruled by his father, Stoick the Vast. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any of the traits that Vikings look for in a leader. Before he can inherit leadership of the tribe, he must first pass an initiation (along with 19 other Viking boys) in which he captures a young dragon and trains it to hunt fish for him, as dragons have done for generations.

This book has all of the trademarks of a traditional contemporary teen novel; the social outcast, the single unpopular friend, the strong bullies, and the out-of-touch, demanding father are all familiar figures to us. But in How to Train your Dragon, these conflicts are set against a goofy, over-the-top surreal Viking background, in which the foremost authority on dragon-training has published his advice in a book (which reads, in its entirety: "Yell at it!"). The humor is broad and plentiful, and the book is broken up by graphic insets that range from amusing childish drawings of the characters to reproductions of pages from ancient tomes on dragons.

Even though I thought that the book didn't work on some levels, I enjoyed the originality. The action scenes involving dragons are interesting, and readers will enjoy many of the jokes. The appearance of an enormous sea dragon provides for some truly chilling moments, and the more serious interactions between the sea dragon and Hiccup are probably the best in the book.

Another strength of the book is the ability to evoke the flavor of a fairy tale, by presenting us with initiation rituals and dragons in a way that sometimes seems magical.

The success of this series will depend on whether the writing can be tightened up in future volumes. The backdrop is consistent and interesting, but the scenes seem somewhat disjointed at times, and not enough is done to generate warmth for the hero. Also, the flame-defeating device near the end is too contrived. These weaknesses are what set the book apart from, say, the Harry Potter books.

Overall, I recommend that you give this book a try; it's a quick read, and you might find yourself eagerly awaiting future installments.
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on September 4, 2011
A friend of mine bought this for her 10-year-old and he loved the books so much that he asked me to read them...and they're great!

This series is really nothing like the movie, but the movie is aimed at an older crowd, and the books are so much more creative.

I ended up buying this set for my book loving 8-year-old nephew who read them straight through in a week! Now I'm back to buy the set again for my 6-year-old so we can read it together!
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