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Nice for a 7 year old, but...
on May 16, 2010
While I thought the writing here was fresh, clean, and very smooth, I was disappointed by the simplicity of the work. Beyond any qualms about the target audience, this book reads like it was almost an afterthought to the producers of the studio's, it certainly seems to be based on early storyboard panels and versions of the script and not the finished product. But the greater issue I have with it is that it is a nice book for a seven year old that is just starting to read and needs a short work with a short attention span, but it is an almost completely unsatisfying book for any older fan of the movie. I have no problem with simplicity; there are many great books that have been written for children but by no means should be enjoyed exclusively by kids, but this work doesn't reach that far. It's not the simplicity of language, it's the sparse, simplicity of the story, and this does not work for a movie that was already wonderfully lean.
The reason I give it three stars is out of fairness, because it's not a true novelization, and because it will likely appeal to young children. But I cannot help but be annoyed at the fact that the studio has been targeting very young children in every aspect of the "How to Train your Dragon" advertising campaign which has I feel, created a misconception about the shallowness or "kiddiness" of the film. I really fell in love with this film; not only was it great fun, and touching, but it was extraordinarily well made, from the music to animation, to acting, to the story, to the 3D. It was perfectly executed and it touched on many themes that I hold very dear, such as finding the humanity in your enemies, being alienated from the expectations of the society around you, and coming of age elements, tied into both Fantasy, a genre I've always loved in concept but far less often in its execution, and Nordic setting, a history and culture I've also always had a great interest in. The result is a very touching, fun, wonderful film that I made a very personal connection to, in no small part due to its smartness and the fact that virtually all of its important scene's are have no dialogue and are instead narrated by John Powell's marvelous, Oscar-worthy score and the visual action, which creates both a more intimate and more personal connection as well as a faster development. It's simply rare to get such a great mix of humor, (half of which young kids, like the kind this book is targeted to, won't appreciate), action, and touching friendships, with characters I care about, and a mixture of music and image that seem perfectly in tune.
So after reading this book I cannot help but be disappointed. There's no problem for younger kids, and I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking for some material to get your child reading some more, but there's just nothing there for any older fan of the film who might be looking to find something with more insight or substance. This reads like nothing more than a hasty, and completely functional, scene by scene summation of the film. I was hoping to find a real novelization, one on at least the level and story-depth that Cowell's books were, one that might expand upon the wonderful nuances and story of the film; a book that would be a fun little read and make me appreciate the film even more and in a different way, and perhaps even fill in more of what I wanted from it. Oh well. If you're looking for that kind of thing you won't find it here, but it's a charming little read for a 2nd Grader.