3 Popular Dragon Story Books for Kids

Kids (and adults like me) have always loved dragons. Be it in books, cartoons, games, movies or anywhere else, dragons have somehow always held a charm that is impossible to go unnoticed. It may be hard to believe but we are such a staunch dragon-loving family that we have hand-made dragon eyes of all shapes, sizes and colors, both ferocious as well as friendly, peeking out at us from various corners of our home – the refrigerator magnets, on the doors of the wardrobe in the kids’ room and even a menacing pair on the door of their room proclaiming: ‘Enter at your own risk!’

Let’s talk about three popular dragon story books for kids which my kids are big fans of as well.

How to Train Your Dragon (by Cressida Cowell)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

First and foremost on the list has to be the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. The story narrates the transformation of the quiet, thoughtful son of the village chief into an extraordinary Viking hero. Those who have watched the DreamWorks movies based on the story may not find it exactly like the movie but it makes for a captivating read nonetheless. And yes, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III might sound like a scary character, but in the story he is the exact opposite of ‘horrendous’ – polite, kind, modest, ever ready to help. The places they explore are dangerous at times but then the Hiccup gang provides a wonderful sense of comic relief to the story, both in the book and the movies.

The Reluctant Dragon (by Kenneth Grahame)

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Image courtesy: Usborne Books at Home

Funny, cute and whimsical – this sums up the story of The Reluctant Dragon. Colorful illustrations make this picture book a hit with young audiences. The English might be a little old world for today’s kids – after all, this classic was published way back in the year 1938 – but the story remains evergreen till date. A dragon who loves poetry becomes friends with a young boy. However, the townsfolk are of the view that a dragon is a dragon and deserves to be slayed, come what may. Now it is up to the young friend of our friendly dragon to come up with a plan to save his life from the people out to destroy him. The Walt Disney movie based on the book was released as an American live action and animated film in 1941.

Eragon (by Christopher Paolini)

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Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Who knew that a polished, blue-colored stone found in the forest would bring forth something that is nothing short of extraordinary – a dragon hatchling? Along with it come all sorts of hitherto unknown magic, accompanied with dangerous enemies, including an extremely evil king. Call it fiction, fantasy, adventure or simply an amalgamation of all three, but as the story of Eragon unfolds, one is left waiting eagerly to find out what happens next as you turn the pages. The movie based on the novel came out back in 2006, an enjoyable adventure flick which the entire family can watch for movie nights at home together.

Wish to add to this list?

Good News & Bad News for Dragon Lovers

Well, for all you dragon lovers out there, we’ve got both good news and bad news. To make you feel better in the end, here’s the bad news first. The release date of How to Train Your Dragon 3, earlier slated for 2018, has been pushed back yet again to March 1, 2019 (which, we admit, is a long time away *sob*). Notwithstanding the fact that the third movie in the series is bound to be a tearjerker of sorts, with our beloved Toothless being drawn away from his best friend and master in addition to our hero having to take some extremely difficult decisions in order to save mankind, this ‘culmination of Hiccup’s coming of age’ is undoubtedly something all of us are eager to watch.

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Image courtesy: PasteMagazine

Now, for the good news – to assuage your sadness, here’s what you should do. Come February 15, just visit the stands and pick up the brand new graphic novel called How to Train Your Dragon: The Serpent’s Heir. The best part? Its story begins right where the second film ended, so you can perhaps make do for now with the gripping tale of how Hiccup and the gang encounter a new enemy with a deadly dragon on an earthquake-plagued island. Rest assured, if the news pieces doing the rounds are anything to go by, the graphic story turns as thrilling as the films as you eventually turn the pages. Definitely some spectacular fire-breathing action in the offing!

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving the Dragon Way

What do kids (and adults) look forward to the most when it comes to Thanksgiving? The elaborate feast, of course! Turkey with stuffing and buttery mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce… Yummy! Well, do you suppose dragons would love these traditional Thanksgiving recipes too? Going by the book titled The Dragon Thanksgiving Feast: Things to Make and Do by Loreen Leedy, they apparently enjoy these as well as other fun activities related to this festive occasion as much as any one of us do.

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Image courtesy: Paperback Swap

Right from putting up decorations in your home to trying your hand at crafts and Thanksgiving games, this book is a fun rhyming story about the bright blue dragons who are preparing in their own way for the celebration. The colorful and expressive illustrations are perfect to hold a young reader’s attention as he or she finds their way through the story. What’s more, one can even try whipping up a couple of the simple recipes mentioned – the pumpkin cornbread or a scrumptious munch and crunch salad. Kids will enjoy how this Thanksgiving story seems to come alive with the step-by-step instructions on doing up the house and having fun with party games involving family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween with the Dragons

For all the young minds that love dragons and Halloween and everything spooky yet fun, Dragon’s Halloween by Dav Pilkey is the ideal book to be read this ghostly season.

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Image courtesy: Scholastic

Who doesn’t enjoy spooky Halloweens? So does the endearing blue Dragon in the story, who is more cute than scary. He arrives at the pumpkin patch with plans to celebrate the festival in his own unique manner, but alas! All of the bigger-sized pumpkins have already gone. He ends up laying his hands on six small pumpkins instead.

The story goes on to narrate how he manages to convert those pumpkins into a large, formidably carved jack-o’-lantern, visits a Halloween party wearing a particularly spine-chilling costume (a pumpkin actually lands on his head) and also is terrified of his very own whining and grumbling empty stomach while walking through a pitch-dark forest.

The illustrations add more life and color to the already exciting tale. And for those who love pumpkins, the extremely appetizing pumpkin food drawings are like the icing on the cake.

Ideal for kindergarten and up, the Dragon’s Halloween makes for an exceedingly enjoyable read.

Where did Dragons come from?

‘If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons.’

True that. In addition to the cute little catchable Pokemon monsters and the virtual pets that are becoming increasingly popular day by day, we keep hearing about dragons all around us – in books, in movies, as cartoon characters, as characters in science fiction films and so on. But have you ever stopped to think where the myth of dragons came from in the first place? There are several legends and stories which claim to be correct as far as the origin of dragons are concerned. However, which one among them is true is as good as anybody’s guess.

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Dragon” by ArtsyBee is licensed under CC by 2.0

Here are a couple of real-life animals which seem to have triggered the advent of dragons as we know them today.

“Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.”          

Steve Irwin (‘The Crocodile Hunter’)

More specifically it’s the Nile crocodile, the second largest reptile existing in the world today (an adult of the species commonly reaches a length of 16-18 feet), which is thought to have acted as a precursor for dragons. What makes it different from other crocodiles? Well, a fascinating characteristic known popularly as the ‘high walk’ – this menacing reptile has the ability to move by raising their trunks above the ground. Can you imagine a mammoth, lurching, scaly creature walking towards you? No doubt it would resemble a dragon of sorts.

“They were like these Gods of the earth who could understand it so well.”

Peter Sohn (Director – ‘The Good Dinosaur’)

Now this one is pretty obvious. According to this report on the StrangeScience website, ‘some creationists claim that medieval dragons were really ruling reptiles of the Mesozoic era that survived into modern times’ – and who are these medieval dragons being talked about? Dinosaurs. What’s more, there was a Chinese historian named Chang Qu who lived back in the 4th century BC; he discovered a dinosaur fossil, eventually misinterpreting and mislabeling it as the remains of dragons.

“The snake will always bite back.”

Jake Roberts (professional wrestler nicknamed ‘Jake the Snake’)

Prolonged, winding bodies and elongated necks with menacing fangs; how can a snake not be a sort of a miniature dragon? They are ready to strike at a moment’s notice, their sting (read: bite) is mostly lethal and the entire experience of encountering one in real life, poisonous or not, is nothing short of petrifying. Now try to visualize a gargantuan fire-emitting snake with legs for appendages – does it not conjure up the image of a dragon in your minds?

No doubt dragons are scary creatures; but then, who can say no to having a cute little monster for a pet, especially if it looks up at you with those puppy-dog eyes like Toothless does to Hiccup?

Dragons in Literature – Smaug & Norbert

My last but one post talked about two popular dragon characters in comic books – Dulcy and Lockheed. Popular as they are, there are some awe-inspiring dragons in the world of literature as well which enjoy unrivalled attention from book lovers (and now movies which are based on the books). Here are two of them.

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Smaug (The Hobbit): This one is Herculean, quick-witted, menacing and hostile all at once, with a distinct appearance – big ears, fur and forbidding canine teeth; one of the primary antagonists in JRR Tolkien’s 1937 novel. When he gets bored with his life, he decides to kick a bunch of dwarves out of their home in the Lonely Mountain (those who have read the story of The Hobbit will obviously know what the Lonely Mountain is all about).

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Norbert (Harry Potter): Norbert is a Norwegian Ridgeback dragon, native to Norway. He came into limelight when he was hatched by half-giant Rubeus Hagrid in his hut at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The endearing baby dragon initially looked like ‘a crumpled black umbrella’ with orange eyes and spiny wings. Eventually as Norbert grew up, she emerged to be much more violent and ferocious, characteristic of female Norwegian Ridgebacks. Hence, the once endearing Norbert was ultimately known as Norberta.

3 Fun Facts You Probably Didn’t Know about How to Train Your Dragon

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  1. How to Train Your Dragon is the first movie produced by the American film production company DreamWorks in which the hero of the story – Hiccup – is of the same age as the target audience of the film. Most of the other DreamWorks animation flicks feature adults as the protagonists of their movies.
  2. This franchise is not just about the movies alone – which are nothing but the tip of the iceberg. A television series popularly known as DreamWorks Dragons has already completed forty episodes and two seasons and is on to its third, while Gift of the Night Fury is a 30-minute Christmas special short film in addition to two other short films on similar themes related to the dragons. What’s more, there are books, video games and soundtrack albums devoted to the dragons and even an exclusive ice show and stadium show based on the movies! No wonder these beloved dragons are a raging success the world over.
  3. Last but not the least, let’s talk about the most endearing character of the entire series – Toothless. Did you know that the adorable sounds he makes are a combination of the recordings of elephants, tigers, horses, elephant seals, other domestic cats and the voice of the supervising sound designer of the film, Randy Thom? In his own words: “Toothless was the biggest challenge for us in terms of the vocalization, because he had to have so much variety just within his own voice. The voice of Toothless is mostly a combination of my voice and elephants and horses, maybe a tiger here and there. It’s lots of stuff!”

How to Train your Dragon – The Book Behind the Movie

How To Train Your Dragon 2

Photo by: howtotrainyourdragon.com

With How to Train your Dragon 2 taking the box office by storm, it’s time to go behind the scenes and take a look at the book series that inspired the phenomenally successful movie and its predecessor.

A Quick Look at How to Train your Dragon the Book

Set in the fictional world of Vikings, How to Train your Dragon is a twelve-part series of children’s books, written by British author Cressida Cowell and published by Little Brown and Co. in the United States and Hodder’s Children’s Books in the UK. The first book in the series appeared in 2003 and was a runaway success. The latest instalment in the series came out in 2014 and has won critical as well as commercial acclaim. In addition to the projected movie trilogy by DreamWorks Animation, the books have also spawned several short series and an animated TV series by DreamWorks Animation.

All the books in the series, narrate the adventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, son and heir of the appropriately named Stoick the Vast – chief of the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans, a warlike Viking clan.

3 Major Characters in How to Train your Dragon the Book

  1. Hiccup Horrendous III

Hiccup is the unlikely protagonist and hero of the Vikings-and-dragons saga, thin, red-haired and intellectual. He speaks Dragonese and is only saved from nerdiness by his excellent swordsmanship. Hiccup owns two dragons – the hunter Toothless and the flier Windwalker. A bite by an evil Vampire Spydragon leaves him paralyzed on the left side of his body.

  1. Fishlegs

Wimpy, squint-eyed and asthmatic Fishlegs is the unlikely hero’s unlikely best friend, but his enemies would be rash to underestimate him. Fishlegs can be cunning when it matters and extremely dangerous in full-fledged battle. Unlike Hiccup, Fishlegs doesn not have aristocratic blood running in his veins – his mother, the daughter of a Murderous Tribe chieftain married an ordinary fisherman. He owns two dragons – Horrorcow a Basic Brown and Deadly Shadow, a three-headed dragon that can emit lightning and flames and camouflage itself when the need arises.

  1. Stoick the Vast

Hiccup’s father and Viking chieftain is a typical warrior – strong but fat and not over-burdened with intelligence. Like any Viking warrior of noble birth, Stoick owns three dragons – Bullheart, Newtsbreath and Hookfang. He is as different from Hiccup as it is possible for a father to be. His character is much the same in the movie series, though the book does not really focus on the strained and complex father-son relationship.

Reading the book series only whets your appetite for How to Train your Dragon the movie! Can’t wait for the third one!

All Things HTTYD2 – For Fans Who Just Can’t Wait for June 13

Since the release of the DreamWorks animated blockbuster ‘How to Train Your Dragon’, Hiccup and his pet dragon Toothless have become household names for kids and teenagers across the world. In the four years since the movie came out, the HTTYD franchise has inspired a host of spin-off products targeted at faithful fans. With less than two weeks left for the release of the much-awaited sequel ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’, here’s a quick overview of all things dragons to keep fans occupied during the agonizing wait.

Television Series

For most fans of the franchise, the DreamWorks Dragons TV show needs no introduction. It serves as a bridge between the original movie and HTTYD 2, explaining the events that occur in the gap between the two movies. Two seasons have aired so far: Riders of Berk and Defenders of Berk, with twenty episodes each. The show revolves around Hiccup and the other dragon riders and their adventures in training dragons on Berk. Several voice actors who lent their voice to the movie characters also voice the same characters in the television series.

Video Games

When not watching the Dragons cartoons, many fans satisfy their HTTYD 2 cravings by playing related video games. There are a host of games related to the subject of bonding and training with the DreamWorks dragons; here are just a few of them. ‘School of Dragons’ is an MMORPG that blends edutainment with the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ storyline, allowing players to raise and train dragons on the exotic island of Berk. Dragons: Rise of Berk is an iOS game that lets players build their own Berk, rescue and raise dragons and explore new lands. A new video game ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ (to be released in June 2014) is inspired by the HTTYD 2 sport of dragon racing. It allows players to compete in epic tournament events, mini-games and training exercises alongside the characters from the movie.

Books

Not every ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ fan is a gamer – some would rather curl up with a good HTTYD 2 book. Luckily, there are plenty such books for devoted fans. Titan Comics has released a graphic novel series ‘Dragons: Riders of Berk’ targeting pre-readers and young readers with glossy pages and fantastic artwork. The ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ magazine is packed with games, puzzles and quizzes for fans who can’t get enough of the franchise. ‘The Art of How to Train Your Dragon’ and ‘The Art of How to Train Your Dragon 2’ is another treat for HTTYD lovers. The books introduce fans to the creative process behind the films, from the story and characters, to the development of the art and animation for the movies.

Collectibles

There are many cool toys and collectibles for fans who love that sort of thing. The Power Dragon Toothless is a miniature version of Toothless as shown in HTTYD 2, and even comes with the fire blade Inferno that Hiccup uses in the movie. The Dragon Throw Blanket is another cool item that features Hiccup and Toothless as seen in the sequel. Also available are Dragons T-shirts, skateboards, mugs and lunchboxes with images from ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’.

Toothless – Feline or Canine?

Apparently, Gabe Hordos, the supervising animator of How to Train Your Dragon, based Toothless’ physical and behavioral characteristics on his own pet cat! The Toothless that we saw and fiercely loved in the movie was passionately competitive, strongly independent, strikingly graceful, yet extremely adorable, exhibiting mostly feline characteristics. Can we therefore safely arrive at the conclusion that Toothless indeed was a cat that accidentally got transformed into a dragon?

 

DreamWorks released the first five minutes of How to Train Your Dragon 2, sequel to the first dragon movie, as a teaser earlier this month. A particular scene shows Hiccup, the protagonist, getting friendly yet combative with Toothless on a hilltop. Hiccup feigns injury and Toothless promptly ‘brings him back to life’. With each passing second, you’re made to feel Toothless is the adorable feline pet that you’d love to have at home. Hordos reveals in an interview, “At first we wanted him to be like a panther… [Toothless] was full of all this anger and then we had to find ways to make him sweet”. Soon after the discussion on Toothless’ characteristics, he drew inspiration from his red tabby called Stufen, whom he had adopted from Humane Society in Los Angeles. He confesses his friendship with Stufen; first, winning his trust and affection, and then securing a firm friendship; inspired him to create Toothless. “I watched his behaviors and you start to recognize the personality in him … these creatures that have no facial expression can actually be emotive and actually make you feel something,” observed Hordos.

Simon Otto, the head of character animation of both the ‘dragon’ movies, has another interesting story to share, “Most of the animators that were working on [Toothless] are cat people, but our director, Dean DeBlois is a devoted dog lover. This created some really interesting debates during our dailies sessions, but ultimately the best idea would always win.” It’s heartening to know that two very adorable pets inspired one of the legendary dragon characters in the history of animation. So, we have a Toothless who sneers and fights like a feline and cuddles up in good times like a fluffy puppy! Otto explains, “Within a few shots Toothless licks Hiccup the way a large dog would splatter saliva all over his owner, followed by a shot of Toothless tapping Hiccup’s head the way a cat would play with a ball of yarn.”

The animators had to closely study animal behavior, both their own pets and footage available on the internet, to come up with the landmark character of Toothless. Hordos’ association story with Stufen won him a Genesis award in the end; an award that’s given by the Human Society of the United States to commemorate entertainment that involves animal welfare.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 hits the theaters on June 13. Be sure to watch Toothless on all his glory. Whether he’s feline or canine is for you to decide!