On Friday when I was waiting for the installation of new tires on my vehicle, I read the seventh book in the How to Train Your Dragon series How to Train Your Dragon: How to Ride a Dragon’s Storm (Young Adult 253 pages) by Cressida Cowell.
“Hiccup has three months, five days, and six hours to win the annual Intertribal Friendly Swimming Race – which he must do by coming in last. Along the way, he’ll have to discover America, battle Polar-Serpents, defeat his nemesis Norbert the Nutjob, and get back to the Isle of Berk. It’s a tall order for a short Viking. Can he do it?”
So it appears as though I haven’t read anything in this series since early September 2016. I was using the series as books to read while I was at the gym on the stationary bike, but my workout has since changed to be a lot more rigorous and intense, which means I don’t usually just hop on the stationary bike for 10+ miles anymore. After this book, I only have two more left in the series that I actually own which means that I will need to make a decision about whether to buy more in the series or just stop with what I’ve got. But I suspect that will be a decision for another day.
Even though it’d been several months since the last time I read anything in this series, the characters and world-building are easily remembered, as are most of Hiccup’s adventures so far. It’s important to remember the previous adventures because this series is cumulative, meaning that each adventure builds on the ones prior, as do the characters.
Something I hadn’t thought of before with any of these particular books or with the reviews I’ve written of these books is that if you were so inclined, there are a lot of black and white drawings throughout all the books and you could actually color if you wanted to. I know there are some book lovers and collectors out there that probably just read the previous sentence and cringed or freaked out or made insults involving words like “blasphemy” or something along those lines, but the truth is that treating everything we encounter as sacred or unchangeable is probably detrimental to our ability to interact with our world. Things are meant to be used. Books are meant to be read and loved. And if you are the parent of a small human who likes to color and likes these books, it seems to make sense to me that they could create their very own heirloom books by making them theirs. Maybe that would mean coloring them. Maybe it would mean taking the book everywhere with them so the book is abused and water-stained. I definitely have some books from my childhood that I treated very poorly, but that I still have fond memories of, maybe because I still have the worn, rabbit-chewed books. Obviously, I don’t have any small humans myself, nor do I ever intend on having small humans. But if I did have small humans to raise in my life, I would teach them to be respectful of things that don’t belong to them, to not destroy those things which do belong to them, and to not feel uncomfortable with taking ownership of those things in their lives. After all, things are just things, and as much as we’re taught otherwise, things really can be replaced. People can’t. And I think that somewhere, we’ve lost that.
Anyway, back to the book.
For all that these books are marketed towards a much younger audience, there’s a lot of really good knowledge and a lot of really deep points that you can find if you’re open enough to see them. For example, on page 250: “Maybe all Kings should bear the Slavemark, to remind them that they should be slaves to their people, rather than the other way around. And to help them never to forget what it feels like to be a child … to be small and weak and helpless.” This entire section focuses on thoughts about how Hiccup has decided that there is no such thing as a perfect world and that it’s his responsibility to instead work to make his home of Berk into the ideal he often dreams of, in regards to the value of people, lives, and ideas. He understands that he can’t just abandon his people because something else out there looks prettier or shinier or easier. In order to truly benefit the people, he has to be willing to be a leader to show them a better way and he knows it won’t be easy, but he’s still willing to make those individual sacrifices in order to bring a better life to his people.
And that’s really what being a true leader is to me. It’s not about posturing and making speeches and thumping your chest; it’s about doing what’s best for the people. It’s about putting the needs of your people before your own.
Overall, this book is a solid three on my rating scale. I’m glad I own it and I’m certain I’ll read it again at some point in the future.