How to Speak Dragonese

How to Speak Dragonese How to Speak Dragonese is the third book in the How to Train Your Dragon series. I’m just going to assume you’ve read the other reviews, so this won’t be repetitive. This book is in keeping with the others—humor aimed squarely at middle grader readers, funny drawings throughout, etc.

Hiccup and Fishlegs are learning pirating and they’re supposed to raid a peaceful fishing boat. Instead, they stumble upon a Roman ship that is anything but peaceful. They’re captured by the Romans and they uncover a dastardly plan to steal all the dragons and make the Viking tribes go to war with each other. They also meet Cami, the heir of the matriarchal Bog-Burglars—and thus we get our first female peer of Hiccup! The kids must use their wits and skills to thwart the plots, which are masterminded by a previous villain.

There are a few pages translating Dragonese—these are, of course, mildly rude, and my children found them absolutely hysterical.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Hiccup and Fishlegs are both small for Viking boys—they don’t have the stereotypical strength and size of their peers. Cami is also small for her age. Toothless is small and not nearly vicious enough. Hiccup rescues a nanodragon who promises him a favor in return, but what could a dragon the size of an insect possibly do?

Of course, it’s all these tiny characters who use wits, skills, knowledge, cunning, and sheer numbers to overcome foes much larger, scarier, and more experienced. There’s an epilogue about using your brains, dreams, and thoughts to change the world. Like the tiny dragons, many people working together may be able to succeed against a great foe.


Hiccup is well aware that he’s a disappointment to his father who seems convinced that at some point Hiccup will get a growth spurt and suddenly become the son he expects. When Hiccup is captured, he fears that his dad will actually be relieved and won’t come rescue him.

Of course his father comes. And he even listens to Hiccup and believes him when Hiccup tells him about the plot to make the Viking tribes go to war. War nearly breaks out anyway—Stoick has to try very hard to follow his son’s example rather than following his own instincts.

Brains Over Brawn

This is a theme throughout the series. Hiccup solves problems because he reads, he learns other languages and about other cultures, he’s polite rather than insulting, he thinks rather than acting rashly. In his culture, these are all acts of rebellion.


“Girly” continues to be used as an insult, but in this book we finally have a female peer of the main characters who can work against that. Cami is small, but she’s great with a sword and she’s capable of rescuing herself—to some extent. In the end, they all have to work together. Cami talks a lot, to the point where it gets annoying to Hiccup. The Romans tease Cami about only being a girl, but of course she’s an important part of the winning team in the end. She often says that Hiccup is pretty good—for a boy.

Fishlegs has eczema. Of course he does. He’s the skinny geeky kid with allergies. His skin issues are brought up repeatedly. He’s still one of our heroes, though, even if he isn’t quite as heroic as Hiccup.

Eating Disorders

The main evil Roman is very very fat. This is described in some detail. He eats nanodragons as a snack (this freaks out the Vikings—dragons are not for eating!). When he’s full, he vomits so that he can start eating again. We’re definitely supposed to be grossed out by this, but it’s handled pretty casually.

Potentially Inappropriate Stuff

Cami’s mom is called “Big-Boobied Bertha.” This is what really bothered my daughter (I thought she’d bristle at “girly” as an insult, but she hardly seemed to notice). Bertha has lethal bosoms, which she once used to stun a stag with their powerful blows. Smaller animals have been known to smother in there, too. This isn’t a major plot point—there are pictures (of course) but we only hear about this as part of her reputation. She also has a beard.

I wonder if I would be more upset by this kind of thing if the author wasn’t female? That’s something I’ll have to think about.


This continues to be a fun series despite some of my misgivings about the stereotypes that seem to be unquestioned. Both my kids enjoy these books—my son is using his allowance to get the whole series. It’s fantastic for reluctant readers. For precocious readers, make sure you’re ready to get into the middle school humor that will definitely get repeated. Probably a lot.


How to Speak Dragonese by Cressida Cowell
Published in 2006 by Little, Brown and Company
Third in the How to Train Your Dragon series (Reviews for Book One and Book Two)
Read my son’s copy

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