British writer and illustrator Cressida Cowell is the creator of several picture books, including the memorable Hiccup, the Viking Who Was Seasick, the story of a little Viking who doesn't feel as brave or bold as his comrades. Now Hiccup has returned, this time in an adventure for older readers, How to Train Your Dragon.
Hiccup remembers that when he was young there were plenty of dragons, but they seem to be gradually going extinct. Like all great heroes, he believes that it is important to tell posterity about his adventures. "I was not a natural at the Heroism business," admits Hiccup. "I had to work at it. This is the story of becoming a Hero the Hard Way." Readers will find several pages from a field guide to dragons. This will help them distinguish between the Common or Garden dragon and the Basic Brown dragon. They are similar enough to be easily confused. Of course, no one can confuse them with the dreaded Monstrous Nightmare dragon.
Readers will also learn Dragonese. Dragons speak a sophisticated and subtle language, and dragon trainers will find that employing this language is a more effective way to train a dragon than "the traditional methods of yelling at it." As with training parents, the most important first word to learn is pishyou, "please." Aspiring trainers will also learn how to ask in Dragonese, "Please would you be so kind as to spit my friend out?" and to say firmly the all-important pedagogical encouragement, "Let's try that again." This is a silly book silly in all the ways that a nine-year-old lover of dragons and wordplay and games can be silly. Even the drawings are silly. Cowell opted to illustrate the book as if it had been illustrated by a clever but slightly gross 10-year-old. The result is a sophisticated-looking faux-primitive look that perfectly matches the text.