Tag Archives: Hiccup and Toothless

Review of How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale – Book 5 of the How To Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell


The grandchildren have been staying over the Easter holidays, so Oscar and I have managed to get a fair amount of reading done, including this fifth instalment of the successful How To Train Your Dragon series.

The heat is on for Hiccup as he is called to save the day once again. Someone has stolen the Fire-Stone. Now that the volcano on Volcano Island has become active, the tremors are hatching the eggs of the Exterminator dragons! Can Hiccup return the Fire-Stone to the Volcano, stop it from erupting, and save the Tribes from being wiped out by the terrible sword-claws of the Exterminators?

After having thoroughly enjoyed the first four books in this funny, thrilling series, I was interested to see if Cowell could continue to provide yet another rip-roaring adventure full of intriguing twists. Or whether I would begin to see a pattern emerging in the storytelling. Well, there is a pattern – Hiccup and his naughty little dragon, Toothless, once more get dragged into an insanely dangerous and difficult adventure despite his best efforts. Though there is a major difference – the Isle of Berk is sweltering in a heatwave, which is something of a shocker. This part of the world is normally chilly and rain-lashed – failing that, it’s snowing… Hiccup spends most of his time shivering with cold if he isn’t shivering with fear.

However, Stoick the Vast has a cunning plan to keep his accident-prone small son a bit safer – when a real ex-Hero shows up, he employs him as a Bardiguard to look after Hiccup. Although there still seem to be a lot of near misses after Humungous the Hero starts guarding him – which makes his pal Fishlegs very suspicious… Oscar likes Fishlegs, who is small and suffers from eczema and asthma – until you put a sword in his hand and he turns into a Berserk. In this instalment, we also team up once more with Camicazi, the small heir to the Bog-Burglar tribe as the Archipelago is faced with a deadly threat that will leave every island a smoking ruin.

Of course, the one thing we do know is that Hiccup is going to survive and eventually prosper as these tales are his memoirs charting his progress to becoming the eventual leader that unites not just the Hairy Hooligan tribe, but all the Viking tribes. So the fact that both Oscar and I spend quite a lot of time trying to figure out how poor Hiccup is going to get out of this scrape and generally not getting it right is a tribute to Cowell’s considerable skill as a storyteller. What I did particularly enjoy about this tale is the insight it gave us on Hiccup’s mostly absent mother, Valhallarama, who is generally busy off questing on her own account.

The story is resolved after another climactic action scene that had me reading to Oscar later than I strictly should have – but neither of us wanted to stop as we needed to know what happened next. And if you are looking to fire up that kind of enthusiasm about books and stories in your youngsters, I highly recommend this wonderful series.

Review of How to be a Pirate – Book 2 of the How To Train Your Dragon Series by Cressida Cowell


So as the summer holidays started, I got hold of the second book in this entertaining series to read to the grandchildren – hot on the heels of watching the second film in the franchise. Would this book fall flat in comparison?

how to be a pirateCan Hiccup find Grimbeard the Ghastly’s treasure before Alvin the Treacherous gets his sneaky hands on it? And if Hiccup opens a box that says DO NOT OPEN, will he live to tell the tale?

Actually, it’s the other way around. Having seen both films before getting to the books, I was surprised at just how much didn’t cross into the films from the books. There are a number of the characters in both versions, and some of the story arcs, of course. But the sheer exuberant anarchy that reverberates throughout the books, as well as the humour, both the punning, cheesy kind and the sharp, observant kind, simply isn’t effectively represented in the films. The relationship between Toothless and Hiccup, in particular – like Toothless – has lost its bite in the film. In the books Toothless is disobedient, selfish and highly manipulative – and regularly embarrasses Hiccup by refusing to obey him at key times. Until Hiccup is suddenly pitched into the middle of a life-threatening situation.

And that’s the other major difference between the film and the books – the sheer thrill factor… The plot in this second book swept us along and I ended up reading to the children disgracefully late – chiefly because I also wanted to know what was going to happen next…

In short, How to Be a Pirate delivered everything I could ask for in an adventure book written for children. No wonder it is such a runaway success. As for my grandchildren – they loved it, too. And Frankie is now clamouring for the third book in the series. Fortunately. Because I was going to get it anyway, even if they hadn’t wanted to read it.

Film Review of How To Train Your Dragon 2


It’s always fun having the grandchildren to stay – and taking them to see a film is one of the treats I enjoy. So long as they enjoy the experience, too…

how to train your dragon2When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the centre of a battle to protect the peace. This film is set five years after the first hit, How To Train Your Dragon, with many of the characters who featured in that film returning. Hiccup is now on the edge adulthood and his father, Stoick, is keen for him to start taking on some of the day to day responsibilities necessary for running Berk. But Hiccup is absorbed in mapping the world as it unfolds beneath him and Toothless, as they continue winging their way through the skies, skimming the sea.

In common with many modern cartoons, the special effects – particularly the flying scenes are beautiful, as well as exciting. However, unlike the dreadful Planes, this film actually has a strong storyline and characters we care about, so manages not to fall into the trap of merely producing a series of arresting skyscapes and a few set pieces. It doesn’t hurt that the franchise is based on the very successful series books of the same name by Cressida Cowell – see my review of the book How To Train Your Dragon here. While the storyline and the characters don’t follow the same path as those of the twelve-book series,how to train your dragon2.jpg2 there are sufficient similarities that the films can utilise some of the strong main characters Cowell has created.

Hiccup and his relationship with Toothless is central to this film – if we aren’t convinced their bond is crucial to both of them, then the second half of the storyline simply won’t work. And it does… The touches of humour stopped it being too treacly – and the subsequent action then left me a bit poleaxed… Whatever I’d been expecting – it hadn’t been that.

SPOILER ALERT – So… was it a really enjoyable day out? Well, I loved the film and so did Frankie – but Oscar hated it. And if the children in your life have any issues around the loss of a father, I’d think twice before taking them to see it. While the quality of the film is excellent – I wouldn’t have taken the children to see it if I’d been aware of the whole story and who dies near the end.

How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell


After thoroughly enjoying the film and the spinoff episodes, Frankie was keen for me to read the book to her. Would she be disappointed, after getting to know the characters through the medium of film?

Hiccup and his friend Fishlegs join a group of boys and set out to catch and train a dragon to be initiated into their clan, the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans. Those who fail will be exiled forever, so will Hiccup and his small, disobedient dragon manage to avoid this miserable fate?

how to train your dragonThe whole tone and feel of this book is a delight – Frankie enjoyed the pictures and loved the humour. There is a lot going on, here. Lots of wordplay and puns within the names of the Viking characters and their dragon pets, but there is also a really strong, well executed narrative arc with plenty of action and suspense. Several times, I found myself reading far longer than I’d initially intended because we both wanted to know what would happen next. As anyone who visits this blog will quickly realise, I read. A lot. And so I’m fairly sharp at recognising how a story is likely to progress – but any predictions I made about this particular book were wrong. I simply didn’t know where Cowell was going to take the story after the initial setup – even though I also know the film very well.

In addition to enjoyably funny cartoon drawings and riveting storyline, Cowell also added some extras for those who like to immerse themselves in her world. Frankie wasn’t remotely interested in breaking off and examining the copy of the book stolen from the Meatloaf Community Library How To Train Your Dragon, written by Professor Yobbish, or checking out any of the dragon stats dotted throughout the book. But then, she is all about the story. However, for any child who appreciates these details – it’s a great addition.

Overall, I highly recommend this book and we are both looking forward to reading the next book in the series – How To Be a Pirate. And I’ve noted with enthusiasm that there are currently twelve books in this series. Yippee!