Saturday, March 27, 2010

I Read It and More about How To Train Your Dragon

I really liked this book. All the way through, I was thinking about how I wished I could read this with a group of 2-5th graders in a classroom. There is so much to teach along the way -- and subtle humor too!

I finished it in about an hour and a half. I then called one of my best friends who teaches Middle School (6th) grade reading. "This book is PERFECT for those kids who are struggling!" Don't raise an eyebrow...if you looked at the statistics of where kids' reading levels have been lately, some middle schoolers are still trying to master 3rd grade level material. And rather than bemoan the tragedy of that fact right now, I just like to be part of the solution.

Here's why middle schoolers would like it (especially boys). The humor in this kept me in stitches -- subtle things along the way, sort of like those jokes stuck in for adults in kids' movies -- for example, the characters' names would be funny to littler kids (Fishlegs, Hiccup, Snotlout) -- but as you get to know the characters, you see how they actually reflect the personalities of their names. Hiccup, for example, is the Chief's son, heir to be this amazing leader, yet he is a small, unaccomplished boy -- a "hiccup" in the linage, so to speak.

Another reason it would be good for middle schoolers at this point is that they can hide behind this excuse to read it -- "My parents/teacher is making me read it before I see the movie." Followed by an eye's a perfect alibi.

So there is meat in this book that needs to be explained. There are pages where the writing is tricky because they are Vikings and the language reflects the setting and time (long ago when dragons were snatched and trained to fight for you). There are pages which describe the dragons and their qualities, but it is sort of written as a "stat sheet" -- this is where boys' knowledge of baseball cards (do they collect those anymore?) comes in handy. They understand the format. For some kids, that needs to be explained.

Another thing happened as I was reading. Knowing ahead of time that it was a movie made me sort of picture the animation that I had seen on the trailers as it was unfolding in the book. It was just interesting to me that my mind did that.

Overall, this is what I would suggest. I would have 1st (really high readers) through 3rd graders see the movie first, then read the book. Older kids (or high third grade readers and up) I would have read the book first, then see the movie.

Here's another twist, however, and it is a good thing, but you will need to talk about it. I read a review this morning in the paper that gave away the ending (I won't). Suffice it to say, it is vastly different than the book. There are quite a few parts, apparently, that do -- but the ending is really something different. One that could create a lot of good discussion for you and your child.

It would be good to compare the movie and the book as you go along, and I think with younger kids, if they have seen the movie first, you will need to remind them and check their thinking to make sure as they are reading the book, they are noticing the changes.

I laugh when kids tell me, "That's not right! They didn't do that in the movie!!" I simply say, "Well, remember the BOOK came first, but yes, I am so glad you notice they are different!"

I will definitely take my boys to this movie -- not this weekend -- we have too much baseball going on. Keep in mind that DreamWorks has also bought the rights to make movies out of the rest of the if your child enjoyed this one, get the next!

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