Sometimes Santa puts that perfect gift in the stocking that is as much for the parent as it is for the child, and I have to confess that when I picked up the very latest book in the How to Train Your Dragon series for Toby’s Christmas is was maybe a teeny bit for me too.
You see, it was this series of books that re-ignited a passion for children’s fiction that prompted me to write this blog.
We first started this series, right at the beginning with How to Train Your Dragon, a couple of years ago when Toby was about five. We caught a bit of the first movie adaptation on TV and I discovered that it was based a character created by Cressida Cowell. The character’s name Hiccup and the author were both familiar to me. We already had her picture book Hiccup the Seasick Viking and had read and enjoyed it many times.
Since we’d just started exploring chapter books I decided to seek out the novels, and we rattled through the 11 books in the series over the course of a year. These books gave us so much shared pleasure. Bedtimes became something we both looked forward to as we rushed to find out the next instalment of Hiccup’s latest adventure. I’d often read from the books for up to an hour at a time and rarely did I ever notice how much time had passed. EastEnders could certainly wait, when Hiccup was in some sort of peril!
As the series progressed the books grew in size and complexity and we were pulled further into what was emerging as an ambitious fantasy saga. I loved and admired the use of language, the characters who were not perfect but still heroic, the themes of loyalty and bravery and destiny, and the utterly compelling plots.
So when another book was published this year it had to be read, and I am so far delighted that I’ve bought a real, hardback copy. Previously we’d downloaded the e-books to my Kindle, which don’t do justice to the mesmerising illustrations that accompany the prose. I knew that it would be a welcome present in this year’s Christmas stocking too, and I was right.
One chapter in and I’m enjoying the experience of reading this work aloud. The words flow effortlessly and it’s a delight to be back in this world. We’ve had fun remembering where the story left off and remembering bits from previous books.
Toby was querying why most of the books in the series have a title that begins “How to. . .” I explained that it is maybe because Hiccup usually has to learn how to do something new in each story.
Toby suggested “How to read a book with more than 400 pages” might be an appropriate title for this one, as it is a doorstopper (something that we hadn’t noticed reading the books digitally). Somehow I don’t think the length of this book will be an issue. I’m hoping we’re going to enjoy every word.