Friday, July 11, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon: The Book


How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell
Hachette recently released a movie tie-in edition of the first book in this series, and when review copies became available, I seized the opportunity to read this popular tale;
  • As many already know, this novel for young readers is very, very different from the film -- so don't let the film's animated hero on the book's cover mislead you -- the two share a few features, but they are not the same story.
  • One of the chief differences lies in the absence of young ladies in the book.  The only reference to females being the lads' mothers (a few times), and then, they are brutish and uninteresting.  Whether to make the movie more marketable or no, I think it a wise move to inject some gutsy girls in the mix.
  • And when the label "for young readers" is bandied about, I would add the novel is for very young readers; as the silliness of "Dragonese" and the abundance of bodily humour (boogers, farts, warts and so on) would patronise those more advanced. 
  • In fact, I enjoyed the movie (and its humour) more than the book and book's (it isn't the first time this has happened, it does, on occasion).
  • A negative for me; the book reads as a guide to insults and reinforces stereotypes.  Yes, an unlikely hero triumphs, but in branding him unlikely the book has done little to upset bullies everywhere.  All Hiccup has to endure before he's received a hero unsettles me, a little.  I don't like suggesting to young people that if they are skinnier, or have red hair, or have hobbies others perceive as "geeky," they are less likely to succeed...especially since the opposite can be true.  
  • That said, I think sticking it out in spite of the naysayers is honourable.  And I do like the message that we are the masters of our own destiny.
  • There are a few irresistibly funny moments and some great similes for young readers to sink their teeth into.
For the very young reader who still snickers over boogers, this is a solid and accessible adventure tale, peppered with illustrations to entice even more reluctant readers.  For me?  Not as enchanting, amusing or powerful as some other children's lit, but I was happy to read it in virtually a single sitting.

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