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How To Train Your Dragon: Paperback Gift Set 2 Paperback – October 21, 2014
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About the Author
Cressida Cowell lives in London with her husband, Simon; children Maisie, Clementine, and Alexander; and two cats, Lily and Baloo. In addition to translating Hiccup's memoirs, she has written and illustrated picture books including Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick, Little Bo Peep's Library Book, and That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown. Her website is www.cressidacowell.co.uk.
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Top Customer Reviews
I think it's safe to say that if you're reading this review, you've seen the How to Train Your Dragon movie. This book series is nothing like that movie. The movies follow a vastly different plot than the book series. I wanted to read about Toothless the fierce and lovable rare Night Fury dragon, but the books describe Toothless as a common tiny dragon (about the size of a house cat) who is actually rather stubborn and selfish. At first I didn't like that at all. By the time I got to the second book, I was really enjoying the books as they were written and not as I expected they should be.
Contrary to what you believe, the Isle of Berk is not attacked by dragons constantly. The Vikings that live on Berk actually have dragon pets. In order to become a member of the tribe, you have to capture and train a dragon (typically by yelling at it very loudly). Hiccup has the unique ability to understand the dragon language and decides to talk to his dragon instead of yelling at it. The book series is a collection of Hiccup's memoirs.
The series consists of 12 primary books and 5 supplemental books. I only read the 12 primary books:
Plot - Each book was had its own stand aloneplot. There was no overarching plot that carried itself from book to book. The plots were straightforward and adventurous. Being a middle grade series, they were somewhat predictable, but that didn't deter from my enjoyment. In fact, I feel like middle grade novels should be predictable so that young readers can develop the skills used to predict outcomes based on given context.
Humor - These books were adorably funny. Between traditional slap-stick humor, funny quips between characters, and silly side narrative, I actually found myself laughing out loud (which is definitely something I don't do often enough). I think it's safe to say that any child who reads this book will find themselves laughing out loud, too.
Narration - I don't mean the narrative of the series. I mean the actual narration. I listened to the audiobooks. In fact, the original reason I chose to listen to these books in the first place was because they were narrated by one of my all-time favorite actors - David Tennant (Doctor Who, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Jessica Jones). This series was an absolute delight to listen to. Mr. Tennant was an extremely immersive narrator. His character voices, enthusiasm, and interpretation of the text were wholly entertaining. His native Scottish accent definitely added to the immersion, as well.
Concept - It's hard to read this book pretending you never saw the movies or TV show. I often felt that this series felt a little derivative, but of what? Of itself?! When you take a few steps back and look at this series, it's pretty obvious that it's a very original concept. Sure there are other books about a boy befriending a dragon to fight a threatening villain, but this series doesn't have that feel to it. This book is about a boy who needs to figure out that he can rule the tribe, but at the same time break away from the idea that Vikings are supposed to be cruel and intimidating. I've never read a light and fluffy book that takes place in Viking territory - you don't tend to think of "light and fluffy" when you think of Vikings. I loved the idea that all Vikings had pet dragons that they controlled using fear and aggression, but Hiccup allowed his dragon to choose whether or not he wanted to help (being a stubborn dragon didn't help, but in the end Toothless would help anyway). I feel like the main themes to take away from this book are bravery, kindness, and friendship.
Modularity - Each book could have been read in any order. The author would remind you of any pertinent information you should have remembered from previous books. I believe that this is worth mentioning because any child can read any book and not feel lost or discouraged or overwhelmed. Since each book was episodic, they read as companion novels instead of serial novels. It's important to note that there are some installments that vaguely relied on events from the previous book, but it wouldn't have deterred me from reading it out of order (say if my library had a hold on one).
Normally I like to lay out Pros and Cons, but I struggled to find something that I didn't like with this book (obviously after I got over that they weren't like the movies). This series was a lot closer to a 4.5 star rating, but since I don't give half stars I left it at 4. The only reason I didn't give this series 5 stars is because even though this was a middle grade series, the situations the characters got themselves in (and out of) where convenient and scientifically unrealistic. While I feel that these are good thing for middle grade stories to have, it just wasn't something I always got on board with. There were quite a few times I found myself saying "Really?!" or "That's not how it works..." and even "The force of that impact would have killed him". I don't feel right holding that against the series because it's purely personal preference and quite possibly the result of me being ridiculous and jaded.
Once I got over the fact that the movie strayed vastly from the book (the only things they had in common were names), I really enjoyed this series. It was funny and action packed. This is a fantastic series for young readers. Unfortunately, if you're looking for a novelization of the movie, I wouldn't read this series. There's actually a whole series of books based on the TV show (Riders of Berk and Defenders of Berk), which might be more up your alley if that's what you're looking for.
The books were very fast reads. I found myself immediately starting the next book each time I finished with one. The great thing about fast reading middle grade books is the feeling of accomplishment that young readers will feel when they close the cover of their book and immediately reach for the next one. Nothing motivates young readers more than being able to see their accomplishments and feeling pride in achieving a goal.