Monday, January 25, 2010

Middle Grade Monday: How To Train Your Dragon

Author: Cressida Cowell
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Pages: 224
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12

As a reader, I have preferences for the types of books that I like to read. One of my guilty pleasures is Urban Fantasy stories. As an educator, I recognize that not all students will like every genre and that I must read beyond what I enjoy so that I may be able to match books to individual students. My ultimate goal is to turn reluctant readers into enthusiastic readers. Additionally, I try to convince students to read the book that a movie is based on prior to viewing the movie. I say all this as an introduction as to how I found myself reading Cressida Cowell's How To Train Your Dragon: The Heroic Misadventures of Hiccup the Viking.

I first discovered this book on a trip to the local indie bookstore with my niece. She selected it as one of her purchases for the day. Next, in a conversation with her, I discovered that an animated movie based on the book was being released in March 2010. My niece was more than agreeable to lending me her copy of the book for me to read. In flipping through the pages, glancing at the hilarious pencil sketch drawings and ink blotches, I couldn't help but cringe a little. Fantasy stories were one thing. Fantasy stories with 9 year old slapstick humor - well that was another thing.

Once I removed my adult reader hat and swapped it for my 9 year old inner child, I delved into the story of Hiccup and Toothless, the Dragon. Hiccup is the son of the Viking leader and along with a dozen other young boys he is required to capture and train a dragon as part of his initiation into the world of being a Viking warrior. The reader soon discovers that Hiccup has not inherited his father's strength and skill as a fighter. He would rather read and study. However, in an effort to make a place for himself in his village, Hiccup commences to capture and train a dragon. Toothless, as Hiccup calls him, is rude, lazy, and one very scrawny dragon. Together, Hiccup and Toothless prove that the underdogs may just be able to do something that all the others could not do.

Children will be entertained by the hilarious antics of Hiccup and Toothless. Hiccup's ability to speak "Dragonese" and determination to train the stubborn but likable dragon will engage the reader. The short chapters, quick pace, and artwork sprinkled throughout the pages will drawn in even the most reluctant readers.

Though this may not be one of those books I would want to read over and over again, it certainly deserves a spot on my shelves for books that will attract reluctant readers. I will warn readers that this may be one book to movie where reading the story prior to watching the movie may not be necessary. After finishing the book, I viewed the trailer for How to Train Your Dragon. It will be interesting to see how closely the movie follows the book. Regardless of the similarities and differences, I anticipate that both will be equally enjoyable.

- Aly

1 comment:

  1. My high school freshman English teacher has a policy--read the book *or* see the movie, but not both. Less disappointing in the long run. I will have to ask her what happens when she has already read a book and then the movie comes out, which looks halfway decent. I personally could never stick to such a policy--I tend to try to do both, to see which I like better.

    I'm down with the 9-year-old slapstick humor, so I'll definitely pick this up and see the movie, too!