I'm pretty excited. My nephew's staying the night tonight. At first I wasn't thrilled, but only because I was planning to go to the monthly scooter club brunch for the first time ever tomorrow in a bid to meet new people, etc, so now I'll have to wait until December and who knows if I'll be similarly motivated then, or if time is on my hands.
But I've decided that I'm lucky to have the kid coming over. He and I haven't had a night by ourselves in probably three years or more. The parents are split now, and his sleepovers are at his dad's. I don't get to see him on his own very often at all, so this is really quite a treat for both he and I. I guess it's our "new normal" in the divorced-kid's life, y'know, just another sacrifice made.
And it's his birthday, too, next week, but he's too old and too cool now to do family birthdays. Now it's him and his friends. But that's all right. I'd rather sleep in on my long weekend, so we're even on that score.
Since it's his birthday, though, I am absolutely elated that where I thought there was only one new book in the Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III's How To...
series, there are THREE! (click the link for plot summaries on all the books in the series on Wikipedia.)
And unlike SOME children's books series with boy protagonists who overcome the jeers, mockery, and expectations to win incredibly tests of courage, you don't need to save money up to buy 'em! They're only $9.99 each, in paper.
I fucking LOVE the Hiccup Haddock series! It's SO fun. It's definitely in the realm of Harry Potter, for me, and it's about time he gets more readership!
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is a scrawny 11-year-old redheaded Viking chief's son who lives on the Northern island of Berk. His best friend, Fishlegs, can't swim, and his soon-to-be-caught dragon (in the first book) is named Toothless. The first book is called "How to Train Your Dragon", the second is "How to Be a Pirate", the third is "How to Speak Dragonese", the fourth is "How to Cheat a Dragon's Curse" and the fifth is "How to Twist a Dragon's Tale".
My nephew hated reading. When pressed to defend that incredibly stupid position, he said "It takes too long!" and I then had to explain rather nicely that, well, that's just idiotic, child.
However, I put my money where my mouth is. On New Year's Eve 2003, he stayed the night and I decided to read How to Train Your Dragon
to him that night -- the whole 210 pages. I did. He loved it. He tried reading it, but he was only 7 or so at the time. *I* loved it and kept laughing so hard I had to stop reading for bits.
He didn't shake that mentality about reading then, which greatly disappointed me, but hey. Last January, so when he was just a bit over 9, I decided to tackle the "So, why is it you don't like reading?" argument again, and he came up with the same not-so-bright argument. Heh. Hey, c'mon!
So I explained that books have much more happen in them than movies do, and there are more books than there will ever be movies, and as a reader, you get to control how it all plays out in your mind, instead of having some director create a vision for ya. "Whatever" was more or less the response I got. So, I said, "Well, you love the Harry Potter movies, why not the books?" "They're the same", he muttered.
"NUH-UH" was my highly evolved response. So, I grabbed book one, and while he sat there playing World of Warcraft on the computer, I read to him.
I got through 130 pages of the first book that day. By page 20, the game's volume had been turned completely off. Slowly but surely, he kept pressing pause so he could turn his attention entirely to the book as I read.
Within six weeks, he'd read all six existing Harry Potter books. :) Then he was into reading as a whole -- Captain Underpants and everyone else.
But I think he'll be pretty ecstatic to get three books at once... provided he hasn't gotten them already. Fingers crossed!
If I'm lucky, he'll let me read some of it to him. There is no greater voice to play in reading than that of the dreaded Viking teacher, Gobber the Belch. Gobber the Belch tends to speak in ALL CAPS. He's not a nice guy. But he's funny. After his students return in book 3, just a random page I've flipped to, and claim that their boat "sort of sank", Gobber has this to say:
THE BOAT SORT OF SANK? roared Gobber. YOU CALL YOURSELVES VIKINGS AND YOU SORT OF SINK YOUR OWN BOAT ON A PERFECTLY CALM DAY TWO HUNDRED METRES FROM YOUR OWN ISLAND? WHAT KIND OF HOOLIGANS* ARE YOU ANYWAY? YOU CAN'T BUILD BOATS, YOU CAN'T TRAIN DRAGONS, FISHLEGS HERE CAN'T EVEN SWIM...
"Saltwater brings out my eczema," mumbled Fishlegs.
"YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE A PIRATE!" howled Gobber. AS IT IS YOU ARE THE MOST USELESS, PATHETIC, MISERABLE EXCUSES FOR TADPOLE POOS I HAVE EVER SEEN! I AM AT A LOSS FOR WORDS!"
Despite being at a loss for words, Gobber yelled at them for the next ten minutes, telling them they were a disgrace to their Tribe and the worst recruits he had ever had. He put them on limpet rations for the next three weeks...
Needless to say, it goes on. Stoick the Vast is Hiccup's father and chief of the isle of Berk. The teaser on the back of book three says "Toothless has been captured, the nanodragon is about to be gobbled, and sharkworms are on the loose! Once again, we're relying on Hiccup to be a hero!"
Just like how Rowling creates a whole strange little world for the Potter antics, this too is a great look at Viking life, and every bit as outrageous as some passages in Potter are for their sheer silly brilliance and ability to really tape into the headspace of kids and teens everywhere.
And if you need any further swaying, know that Pixar is hard at work bringing book one to life as a feature-length blockbuster animation movie, naturally called How to Train Your Dragon
, aiming for theatres in 2009.
I know *I* can't wait. :)
*Their tribe is called the Hooligan Tribe as they're from Hooligan village on Berk.