I’ve been feeling ill these past few days and several weeks ago a friend had been listening to the How to Train Your Dragon series on audio and recommending them to me. I remembered this recommendation one night when I didn’t want to watch anymore TV and didn’t feel as if I had the focus to want to read but wanted a story to distract me. Having already read How to Train Your Dragon, the first in the series of “memoirs” by the Viking hero Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, I found an audiobook of the second in the series, How to Be a Pirate. Cressida Cowell’s books are read by David Tennant in his natural Scottish accent. Having David Tennant read to me a book filled with humor and adventure in voices such as my parents never managed was a true blessing while I was miserable.
A great fan of the film done by DreamWorks, in my mind the main characters are even more fleshy than those illustrations offered by Cowell in the prequel to this story—and Hiccup is a brunette rather than a redhead, though Toothless’ film incarnation and book illustration I am able to separate, remembering that when I am reading or listening to the book, Toothless is a green Common or Garden dragon about the size of small kitten. I did not for these familiar characters mind the absence of Cowell’s illustrations necessitated by the audiobook format. But for new characters—in particular Alvin the Poor-but-Honest-Farmer, who is the catalyst of the adventure—I was surprised to find myself missing the sketchy illustrations by Cowell (though when I found her illustration of the man, I preferred the image of Alvin that my mind had cooked up).
I worried that the series might be one of those the adventures of which became repetitive. Two books in, I can’t fault the series for that. This second book was different enough from the first to be just as interesting and just as funny—if not more so. I think Tennant’s voice acting may have added to the humor of the book. Certainly, he made the sarcasm in Hiccup’s tone more palpable.
This second book continues Hiccup’s challenge to be accepted as Hope and Heir to the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans. He combats bullies and Viking ideals, to which he does not conform. Hiccup again leads the Hairy Hooligans, but not in the obvious ways that he does in How to Train Your Dragon. There, Hiccup won the Hooligans’ admiration through action. Here, he won my admiration through inaction. He shows that he is not only clever and brave but wise, [SPOILER] foregoing glory and riches for to protect his people from a danger they cannot see and from a danger that they desire and covet. [END SPOILER]
This is still technically a boys’ book, even more devoid than the last of a female presence, the only female figures being a dragon or two, but even while I recognize Cowell’s intended audience, I still object that I am a woman and I enjoyed the book. (Categorizing books into boys’ and girls’ requires pigeonholing and often involves adherence to a should-be-dead system of bias and prejudice whereby girls must become housewives and child-bearers and boys can be adventures and heroes.)
Cowell, Cressida. How to Train Your Dragon, Book 2: How to Be a Pirate. 2004. Narr. David Tennant. Audio recording. Hodder Children’s Audio: 2004.
This review is not endorsed by Cressida Cowell, David Tennant, Hodder Children’s Audio, or the original print publisher, Little, Brown, and Company, part of Hachette Book Group. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.