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Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

 Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell


According to the single page volume written by Professor Yobbish on the topic of how to train ones dragon (never fear, its in the book), theres really not much to it. All you need to do is yell at your dragon. Very, very loudly. Yell until those eardrums burst, and until the little blighter is cowering before you in a puddle of its own making.

Hey, if it works for those flustered parents in Kmart shrieking after Jaxxn and Kiilee, then its bound to work on a dragon. Because bogan kids are way more of a handful than your average fire-breather.

Theyre bigger, too, if Hiccup Horrendous Haddock IIIs dragon is anything to go by. Hiccups dragon Toothless is teeny-tiny. With, obviously, no teeth. Even bogan kids have at least'some teeth. For a while, anyway.

See, during his first Viking initiation test, Hiccup did a most un-Viking kind of thing. Rather than stomping all over his grubby peers and grinding them into the ground with his Obvious Dragon Knowledge (Hiccup only has knowledge in his favour; he has no upper body strength to speak of), he let compassion get the better of him. Pffft, compassion. Hardly Viking-like.

Anyway, clearly addled by this thinking-of-others business, he passed off the passably good dragon he first managed to kidnap to his buddy Fishlegs. Hiccups second kidnapping, unfortunately, netted him a chihuahua. One with scales and wings, admittedly, but other than that, clearly a chihuahua.

A wimpy teacup dragon with a yen for the high life doesnt exactly scream rampaging and pillaging, does it now?

Particularly when the already soft Hiccup goes against those tried-and-true SCREAM AT IT LOUDLY methods of dragon training in favour of a progressive approach. Any Viking parentand any bogan parent at thatwill tell you that those little so-and-sos arent meant to be treated with airy-fairy faffing about.

And to be honest, poor Hiccup is beginning to think that theres something to be said for that one-page dragon training manual. His lazy, entitled dragon lagging behind his screamed-at, cowed-into-submission peers. Until,'until, something big happens, and Hiccup and Toothless show the world that perhaps theres something to be said for treating others with respect after all.

Oh, this book is so very silly. It chortles along with ridiculous jokes, terrible names, and bizarre anachronisms. The narrator is a head-shaking, finger-wagging old-lady-with-half-moon-spectacles type, and talks up the tale of poor weedy Hiccup to glorious bed-time-tale effect.

It deliciously lampoons societies that favour nepotism and brawn:

Hiccup will be leading you, although he is admittedly completely useless, because Hiccup is the sun of the CHIEF, and thats the way things go with us Vikings. Where do you think you are, the REPUBLIC OF ROME?

Although at the same time, Hiccups chief father is utterly, merrily convinced of his sons inevitable success, merely because of his good breeding, making for an interesting take on the whole supportive parent thing.

The book also has a good old laugh at a Bradbury-esque/Huxleyan world in which thought and erudition are tossed away in favour of mindless entertainment and a glazed-eye withdrawal from the challenges of the world:

Wartihog put up his hand. What if you cant read, sir?

No boasting, Wartihog, boomed Gobber. Get some idiot to read it for you.

There is, however, an astonishing dearth of females in the book, and I submit that its the worrying ratio of males:females that is far more of a threat to the Viking realm that a piffling dragon or two. This was certainly a downside for mewhen a film adaptation of a book contains more females than the book itself, well, you suspect that somethings not quite right with the world.

I also came away a little cross-eyed from the format of the book, and its not because Im a Viking and cant read. The pages are peppered with scrappy sketches apparently drawn by someone using their non-preferred handokay, this is deliberate, but theyre sort of like great chunks of beetroot tossed into a salad. Theyre great on their own, but after a while they kind of ruin the rest of the dish.

The illustrations blob in and out of the text, cutting off paragraphs here, and coming between whole pages of text there, and it does make for some disruptive reading. The font used for Toothlesss speech has a bit of an eye-gouging vibe to it as well, and ancient astigmatics like me may wonder if they need to dial up the intensity of their contact lenses.

And finally, I did find myself wondering what caused snotty little Toothless to come through with the goods in the end. Being pampered and doted on is all very well and good, and surely better than being verbally assaulted all day, but does it really make a dragon decide to do the equivalent of a teen cleaning his or her room? Or is this, perhaps, the point, and Toothlesss heroic deeds arent necessarily linked to all that hardcore parenting at all, but something within him? Since kids are a few years away for me yet, Ill have to report back on this in a couple of decades time.

In all, though, this is a ripping read that champions the underdog (underdragon?) and has a good bit of fun with, well,'everything, along the way.

Rating: star Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowellstar Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowellstar Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowellhalfstar Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowellblankstar Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell (very good)'

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Other books by Cressida Cowell:

 Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell Book Review: How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

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  1. I actually started to read this book in B&N while taking my kids there.
    I have to say that if they were a bit older I would have bought it. I read about 20 pages or so and had a few laughs.

    I liked the bad sketches since I though they went well with the story.

    By the way, thanks for teaching me the meaning of Huxleyan :)

    • Stephanie /

      It really is good fun. I gave it to my husband to read, and he sat up all night laughing.

      The sketches are fun, but I felt that they were formatted in a way that meant that they were a distraction from the text, rather than integrating well with it. I do plan to check out the others in the series, though!

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