Book Review: The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Book Review: The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson 2 Stars **

Let me start off by saying if Bill Clinton wanted to co-write a political thriller, he should have sought out Daniel Silva or Nelson DeMille. James Patterson may not have been the best choice. Sure, Patterson is the highest grossing author who ever lived BUT he does not write about political intrigue or complex situations.  His early books were exciting with main character Alex Cross struggling to keep his family safe while chasing down psychopathic killers. Then, Patterson decided to branch out and help unknown writers by co-authoring books with them to boost their sales. Patterson’s writing style changed from that point. Most of these books are geared to Middle Grade readers (8-12 years old) and The President Is Missing reads exactly like one of his kids books. Not all good writers are good across the board.

The chapters are mostly short—one, two or three pages with a few chapters as long as ten pages. There are 128 chapters plus an Epilogue in the book. The president tells his story in the first person, a technique used in middle grade books. The terrorists’  activities are described by a third person narrator. Sentences are short, choppy and lacking in sophisticated vocabulary the reader would expect to find in an adult political thriller. The characters are shallow, the dialogue preachy, self-congratulatory, and often repetitious.

The title is misleading because the president is not missing. He’s holed up with a small group of advisors and foreign dignitaries trying to thwart a cyber attack on the United States that would destroy every known system that keeps the United States going. The American people are unaware of this danger. All attempts at avoiding disaster take place in one room, presenting a missed opportunity to show the president’s strength in calming and guiding the American people. Way too much tell, and not enough show.

The president’s ego is always on display—from his rugged good looks to his POW loyalty to his fellow soldiers to his undying, faithful devotion to his daughter and late wife. Of course, it’s his suggestions that save the day. By the way, despite what TV interviewers implied about the president in the book taking advantage of a young woman by having an affair or sexual relationship,  it never happened. It’s not there. Period. So, I don’t know how this misinformation prevailed. This is one aspect of President Clinton’s life that did not find its way into this book.

Whatever you may think of Bill Clinton’s politics and private life, the man is extremely intelligent and also distinguished himself as a Rhodes Scholar.

Bill, you should have and could have done better than this. Next time, work with a writer who displays knowledge of how systems work, has sophistication in international relations, displays a mastery of the English language, and who also deals in well-researched facts and exotic locations.


Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Book Review: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Book Review: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey 4 Stars ****

Set in 1921 Bombay, India with flashbacks to 1916 Calcutta, the main character Perveen Mistry, the first female solicitor in India, represents the plight of women during this period of history. (The character is inspired by the real life Cornelia Saraligi.) Not only does Perveen extricate herself from a marriage of virtual bondage but she represents the interests of the widows of Malabar Hill, whose rights and fortunes have been usurped by an unscrupulous male guardian after the death of their shared husband.

The story is told in flashback, showing the reader how a modern, educated Parsi Zoroastrian young woman raised by enlightened, progressive parents becomes embroiled in a marriage with a man who professes love and modern ideas but allows his parents to impose outdated, superstitious restrictions on his new bride, endangering her health and well-being, preventing the continuance of her law studies, and cutting her off from the outside world in 1916 Calcutta. Perveen’s husband, Cyrus, does nothing to protect her. It becomes apparent that this marriage is one of convenience for both groom and parents motivated by a desire to cash in on Perveen’s family money. When Perveen becomes infected with gonorrhea from her husband’s dalliances with prostitutes, she learns that she will never bear children. With the help of Perveen’s father, she is able to extricate herself from her marriage after being beaten by her once beloved husband. Perveen then attends law school at Oxford, works for her father as a solicitor in Bombay, and begins her career. As a woman, she is barred from many things but has the unique position of being able to communicate with the many Muslim women who are prohibited from contact with men. She sets out to restore the widows’ fortunes, solve the mystery of the murdered guardian, save the life of a child who has gone missing, and promote the rights of women.

Having been a helpless victim of the subjugation of women as imposed on her by her in-laws, Perveen is especially motivated to help and protect others. However, Perveen is a quiet crusader, Determined, but never demanding. Focused, but never rude. She very much acts according to what is expected of a young woman of that period of time.

We learn so much of the clashing cultures of India in the early 1920’s. For that alone, it is worth reading this book which would make an excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns. The book is character driven. The mystery is subdued, although always present, much like the main character.

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018





A Modern Day Edgar Allan Poe? All Roads Shattered by Lisa Diaz Meyer

Thumbs Up: All Roads Shattered by Lisa Diaz Meyer

I’m back to writing book reviews after a hiatus devoted to promoting my work with great success. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa Diaz Meyer and purchased her book All Roads Shattered. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect having been told this book is a combination of dark fiction short stories, multi-genre science fiction, and poems.

What a pleasant surprise! I read the book in less than two days and could not put it down. The book, which has won a 5 Star Readers Favorite Award from New Apple Literary, is divided into parts: two sagas “Outposts III” and “People of Gods,”  five multi-genre, dark fiction short stories and twelve macabre poems.

Lisa describes herself as  “a voice for the sad and lost, isolated and abandoned, desperate and different”…” (Lisa) relates to the odd, macabre, and funereal.” You might be afraid that these tales are extreme. To be honest, I thought yeah, I know people like this. People who are willing to sacrifice even their loved ones so their lives play out according to their own agendas.

Lisa uses irony to repeat the same themes throughout: governments and the general population, as well as individuals within families, are in constant power plays for control; people cannot be trusted; what goes around comes around; the world is filled with shape- shifters, liars, manipulators; nothing is as it seems; always be suspicious to protect yourself and your loved ones; many people have horrible dark souls that even those closest to them are unaware.

I was reminded of Edgar Allan Poe. Remember how his characters deceived their victims, setting them up for “the kill”  with elaborate plans and smiles on their faces? Yes, it’s all the rage to be positive and apply Law of Attraction principles, but yet…

I especially enjoyed The Oddities , The Clearing , Dinner With Myles, and the Graveyard poem. Life has a way of sneaking up on you even when you’re looking.

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

The Heist’s Gabriel Allon: How Daniel Silva Creates a Sympathetic Character

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Since I’m a great believer in analyzing what makes a book excellent and/ or popular, I chose “The Heist” by Daniel Silva. Not only does the author keep the reader engaged with exciting plot, excellent character development, precise language, descriptive settings, historical details, a love of fine art and a direct and to the point writing style but also creates an intriguing international spy thriller.

Let’s take a look at the book. Gabriel Allon is an Israeli art restorer, spy, secret agent, assassin who assumes different identities and disguises as he travels around the world to right wrongs and keep the world safe from those conspiring to inflict harm. Mario Delvecchio is the name Gabriel uses in this book as he works for the Vatican to restore art masterpieces, specifically at the altar of a Venetian church. The Mossad summons Gabriel to help a friend who has become embroiled in an international incident involving murder and the stolen and missing masterpiece “Nativity” by Caravaggio. And so the plot thickens as Gabriel leaves the relative safety of Italy to follow a trail of clues that leads him to civil war torn Syria. Gabriel demonstrates extreme loyalty to Syrian Jihan Nawaz as he pays millions of dollars in ransom money that could have been his in order to save this astounding woman.

Here’s what we learn about Gabriel. He is loyal, steadfast, incorruptible and beyond reproach. He speaks at least five languages. His parents were Holocaust survivors. His mother named him after the angel, Gabriel, the mightiest of the angels. His father died fighting for Israel. His grandfather was a famous artist who instilled a love and appreciation of art and painting in his grandchildren. Gabriel’s first wife, Leah was severely burned and his young son killed by a car bomb meant for him. Leah remains disfigured in a psychiatric hospital  with only fleeting moments of reality. The hospital is located across from Mount Olive in Israel where their child is buried. Gabriel is haunted by thoughts of his dead son. Gabriel visits Leah often but has remarried. Chiara is a Venetian Jew who also aids Israel in keeping the world safe. When pregnant with their first child, Chiara was kidnapped and miscarried. Now she is pregnant with twins and all is well– so far. Gabriel shows great loyalty to his friends and colleagues, visits them when in hospital and stays by their bedside when in danger of death.

Not all of this information is revealed in “The Heist.” This is actually the seventeenth book involving Gabriel and the fourteenth in this series. Some of it is revealed over time and much of it is repeated. Don’t you feel as if you know Gabriel Allon? He is full of pain but struggles to go on with his life. Daniel Silva does not present him as a soppy character, but as a survivor with a purpose–restoring art, ridding the world of evil and enjoying a happy family life.

In fact,  in 1969 the “Nativity” by Caravaggio was actually stolen from a church in Palermo, Sicily and has never been recovered.

Let’s take  a look at some of the strong verbs and adjectives used in “The Heist.”            Verbs –relitigate, flogging, devised, possessed, crushed, predicted, inspected, collected, reappeared, boarded, obligated, lecture, posing, trimming, disabuse, dawdled, twirled, rotated, draped, scrutinized, sped                                                                                          Adjectives –taciturn, posh, craqulure, lull, footsore, mantis-like, bespectacled, prominent, notched, capitulatory, rudimentary, tactical, concessionary, disused, sprawling

Unlike Dan Brown, Daniel Silva manages to portray sensitive events without being hell bent on denigrating and destroying beliefs in anyone’s religion. You won’t find any self-flagelating monks, shallow characters or hidden messages in paintings that attempt to poke holes in religious dogma. Daniel Silva  approaches writing as a craft rather than a sensational money making scheme. We’d need an actor with a lot more depth than Tom Hanks to play Gabriel Allon. Maybe Daniel Silva will acquiesce to requests for movie rights? He first needs to trust in an actor who will do justice in his portrayal of  this complex character.  Slim pickings  out there. Any suggestions?

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

To hear what Daniel Silva has to say about “The Heist” watch this video.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

“The Name of This Book Is Secret”: Synesthesia – The Colorful Smell of Numbers

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Since I’m a firm believer in studying what makes a book excellent and/ or popular, I chose  “The  Name of This Book Is Secret” the first book in “The Secret” series  by Pseudonymous Bosch (aka Rafael Simon, but don’t tell anyone his real name since he travels around the world incognito)  illustrated by Gilbert Ford.  As we already know, a successful series is heavily dependent on a great first book and this book doesn’t disappoint. Actually, it was a pleasure to read. Absent are the zany characters and slapstick humor of the MG books I’ve recently reviewed. The series is geared to a more sophisticated reader. Thank heavens!

What is novel for me in this book is the concept of “synesthesia” the blending of colors, smells, sounds, numbers and graphemes so a stimulus in one modality produces a sensation in another modality. For example, synesthetes can hear colors or associate sounds with numbers  or smells with music. Some authors and artists and many musicians are known to possess this trait. In modern day society, Tori Amos, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Eddie Van Halen, Pharrel Williams, Stevie Wonder and Kanye West are only some of  the synesthetes acceding to Wikipedia.

Pseudonymous Bosch addresses a different modality of synesthesia in each book of his “Secret” series:                                                                                                                                   Book 1-The Name of This Book Is Secret” (smells) (the symphony of smells)         Book 2-“If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late (sound) (the sound prism)               Book 3-“This Book Is Not Good For You” (taste)                                                          Book 4-“This Isn’t What It Looks Like” ( sight)                                                                   Book 5- “You Have To Stop This” (touch)

Some examples of smell synesthesia in “The Name of This Book Is Secret” are as follows: the story revolves around the mysterious and coveted “Symphony of Smells.” Example 1 –  musical symphony #9  (p. 42)   is composed of juniper, chocolate and allspice Example 2-  First violin=ginger. Viola=maple. Cello=vanilla. Oboe=licorice.

Interesting, isn’t it? I have to admit many years ago when I visited Mexican pyramids, the tour guide told us how the ancients associated numbers and colors. He told us to go to the casino and focus on  specific colors at the roulette wheel to make certain numbers come up. Needless to say, it didn’t work for me so I filed the whole concept under “G” for Garbage. So, guess who isn’t a synesthete? Another example of why we shouldn’t judge by our own limitations.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Name of This Book Is Secret” and its recipe for success:                                                                                                                                            Genre: Mystery                                                                                                                  Preface: “WARNING: Do not read beyond this page! Good. Now I know I can trust you. You’re curious. You’re brave. And you’re not afraid to lead a life of crime….Read on, if you must. But, remember, I warned you.”                                                                                    Chapter 1: two pages of  “Xxx xxx xxxx.”…….”Xxxxxxxx?”…….”Xxxxx x xxxxx,”xxxxx  xxx!”  “Xxxx  xx.”                                                                                                                      Chapter One and a Half: “I’m sorry I wouldn’t let you read Chapter One. I can’t keep a secret. I hope you have better luck.”                                                                                       Humor: In Chapter Two, three signs in Cass’s adopted grandfathers’ antique store – “You break it you hide it.”  “The customer is always  never right.”   “If it aint’t broke don’t fix sell it.”                                                                                                                                                        Story Within a Story: “How Max-Ernest Became Max-Ernest”  and “La Storia Della Mia Vita” (“The Story of My Life” as told by the missing magician, Pietro Bergamo) Characters: Cassandra (Cass) the survivalist detective;    Max-Ernest, the lover of logic, detective;    Pietro Bergamo, the absent magician whose letter drives the characters and the story;   Benjamin, the synesthetic genius kidnapped to become a human sacrifice; Dr. L and Ms. Mauvais, the villains with a surprising past                                                                                                         Setting: Anytown, USA, the missing magician’s house and The Midnight Sun Spa ( a place of evil – yikes!)                                                                                                                   Family Life:  Cass lives with her mother  and spends a lot of time with her two adopted grandfathers (all normal);  Max-Ernest lives with his divorced parents who still live in the same house and don’t agree about ANYTHING  (not normal)                                                                                                                                             POV: The mysterious narrator interjects himself/ herself into the story at the beginning and end so chapters 1-3 are told in the first and third person, then continues in third person and reverts to first person at the ends (all of them)                                                    Visual Variety: different fonts, bold, italics, an eight line sentence without spaces between words                                                                                                                               Games: riddles, secret codes, scrambled anagrams, secret doors and panels  Illustrations: with captions and clues                                                                                  Ending: Cass and Max-Ernest rescue Benjamin BUT the villains are still at large; an epilogue of  the characters’ lives BUT it’s not really the ending                                            Write Your Own Ending: lined pages for the reader to change the ending of the story Chapter Zero: continues the ending since the previous chapter was not really the end-so call this the denouement and get angry if you want to                                                                                                    Appendix: recipes, glossary of circus terms, keyword codes, instructions for a card trick                                                                                                                                             Advertise: the second book in the series, ” Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Continued in Book 2-If You Dare”

We see a lot of familiar techniques in this book as well as  innovations. This book made the New York Times Bestseller List for a reason. We must include a number of things the reader expects, but give it all a new twist, a different slant, a unique quality to make it stand out from the crowd. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s as plain as the nose on your face but it takes genius to see that nose in a different way.

Any synesthetes out there? I’d love to hear from you!

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

Take a look at this video to  enter the world of Cass and Max-Ernest.

Next week’s blog post…October 18, 2014 “The Giver”: A Frequent Visitor On Challenged and Banned Book Lists


Patterson & Tebbetts-Middle School Series : Recipe For Success

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Since I’m a firm believer in analyzing what makes a book excellent and/ or popular, I chose to look at the Middle School series by James Patterson & Chris Tebbetts illustrated by Laura Park. I will concentrate on the first of the series, “Middle School-the Worst Years of My Life”  where the story of sixth grader Rafael  (Rafe) Khatchadorian begins.

A successful series is dependent on a strong lead-off  book – in this case, “Middle School- The Worst Years of My Life.” Next in the series is Here“Middle School-Get Me Out of  Here”  which tells about Rafe’s experiences in a new school. The third book “How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli and Snake Hill” tells about summer camp followed by the “Save Rafe.” The overall themes deals with bullying and struggles to fit in. The mood is light and funny with a conversational style. Rafe is presented as a sympathetic character replete with charming personality flaws.

Let’s take a look at the recipe:

Collaborate: Combine two successful authors with complimentary skills.                  Organize: Have James Patterson write a specific chapter outline so Chris Tebbetts can write the story. Slowly add Patterson’s ideas and revisions.                                                  Point of View: First person; poke fun at teachers, administrators and school rules                      Characters With Catchy Names:  English teacher/ Detention Monitor – Ruthless Donatello;   Vice-principal- Ida Stricker;   Bully  – Miller the Killer;   Alter Ego/Imaginary Friend/ Brother-Leonardo the Silent  (notice shades of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)                                                                                                                               Chapter Length: 2-4 pages                                                                                                      Main character’s Motto: “Rules Are Made For Breaking”                                        Mysterious Character: Leonardo (Leo) – hints that he’s real, then an alter ego, then imaginary, then real but deceased                                                                                               Secret Ingredient: Don’t hint that Leo is imaginary until chapter 25 but state  in chapter 75 he’s in fact, Rafe’s deceased brother,  whose memory Rafe’s keeping alive                  Hook: Rafe is the author of this story while Leo is the illustrator; Leo sometimes controls the events according to what he decides to draw                                                             Fantasize: Share wild daydreams and fantasies ex. Rafe imagines he’s in prison while in the principal’s office  and uses prison jargon and analogies                                                                                                                       Add Visual Interest: Lots and lots and lots of hilarious illustrations with speech blurbs and sound effects                                                                                                                                   Sprinkle Colorful Fanciful Language: “The Dragon Lady’s eyes ( Ms. Donatello) turn yellow. A long stream of fire comes shooting out her nose. I dive over a burning desk, roll. and jump back onto my feet.”                                                                                                        Add: A mother Rafe can love and trust ;  his mother’s live-in boyfriend who Rafe can hate                                                        Add to Taste: name calling, shouting, conflict                                                                         Mix It Up: Use a variety of fonts, letter sizes, bold, italics, all caps, sound effects        Test: Add a pretend quiz to see if the reader is paying attention                                       Happy Ending: Rafe is expelled from school but is sent to Art school ( at the suggestion of the Dragon Lady, Ms. Donatello) where his talents can be developed  (hence, the second book in the series)                                                                                                                               Run a Contest: The winning  paragraph will appear at the beginning of the next book    Advertise: Tell about other available and upcoming books and include sample chapters

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? So, how come we didn’t think of doing it?  It only goes to show that it’s as clear as the nose on your face, but everyone, obviously,  doesn’t see that nose in the same way. That’s where the genius comes in.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be  reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

To experience life through Rafe’s eyes, watch this video.

Next week’s blog post…October 11, 2014 “The Name of This book Is Secret”; Synesthesia–The Colorful Smell of Numbers


Maniac Magee: A Study of Poetic Techniques

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Since I believe in analyzing what makes a book excellent and/or popular, I chose the Middle Grade “Maniac Magee” written by Jerry Spinelli and published in 1990, the  winner of at least seventeen awards including the Newberry Medal. This book is unusual in that it openly and honestly addresses the issues of race relations which is unusual for a book for this age group. Also, the language is beautiful, strong and precise.

Orphaned at the age of three, Jeffrey Lionel Magee, later known as Maniac Magee, goes to live with a feuding aunt and uncle from whom he runs away at the age of eleven. He doesn’t go very far but for the one year we follow his life, he literally and figuratively runs for hours each day avoiding bullies and unpleasant situations and exploring the towns around him. Maniac vacillates between wanting a place to temporarily live and wanting to be part of a family. A number of people help him along the way as he travels back and forth from the white side of town to the black side of town in western Pennsylvania. The reader must suspend belief  when no one reports him to authorities as they encounter and shelter this wandering homeless child who does not attend school and whose family apparently makes no attempt to find. Symbolically, Maniac unties the infamous Cobble’s Knot and wins a year’s supply of pizza even though he’s allergic. Maniac does much to dispel negative stereotypes of the black community throughout the book. Except for the honky hating Mars Bar and Old Ragpicker, the black community accepts Maniac when he lives on their side of town. The stereotypes on the white side include the dysfunctional aunt and uncle, a white supremacist family, the grouchy old geezer Mr. Finsterwald, the kind,  loner park attendant Grayson and the Pickwell family who have many children and down-on-their-luck visitors. In the end, Maniac brings the white supremacist family together with the openly hostile Mars Bar who  has just saved the little white supremacist boy’s life.

I’m going to cite some of the poetic techniques used in the writing: simile, metaphor, auditory and visual imagery and the use of strong verbs.

Simile “…like a rock in a stream,”  “…they’re chattering like snare drums,”  “…he took off like a horsefly from a swatter,”  “…brains like milkshakes,”  “…a string of curses that fried the cold morning like an egg”

Metaphor  “But that’s okay, because the history of a kid is one part fact, two parts legend,  and three parts snowball.  and if you want to know what it was like back when Maniac Magee roamed these parts, well, just run your hand under your movie seat and be very, very careful not to let the facts get mixed up with the truth.”

“During the night, March doubled back and grabbed April by the scruff of the neck and flung it another week or two down the road. when Maniac slipped silently from the house at dawn-the only way he’d ever manage to get away-March pounced with cold and nasty paws.”

“But they were spoiling, rotting from the outside in, like a pair of peaches in the sun. Soon, unless he, unless somebody did something, the rot would reach the pit.”

Visual Imagery “…the soles of both sneakers hanging by their hinges and flopping open like dog tongues each time they came up from the pavement,”   “…who was streaking a fly pattern down the sideline,”   “…hoisted Arnold Jones’s limp carcass over his shoulder and hauled him out of there like a sack of flour,”   “…a demon’s gleam in his eye,”   “…skiing on his heels down the steep bank and into the creek,”   “The words seemed to lift right off their faces like sunburnt skin peeling.”

Auditory Imagery “A rattling. A chittering. A chattering.”    “…a buzz-like trembling,”  “It was a simple two-note job– one high note, one low,”   “…twanged open her back screen door,”   “…they just heard it whizzing past their noses,”   “…chomped on,”    “Thump! Thump!”

Strong Verbs eyes goggle, conked out,, hoisted, hauled, twanged open, reeled in,  zoomed, lurching and lunging, gasping, croaking, wobbled once, leaped, shrieked and babbled

There’s a lot of story and a lot of technique in this 184 page Middle Grade book. The tone and mood are easy-breezy but the message packs quite a punch. This book is a perfect example of a story that is crafted, not merely written.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be printed or used in any form without  expressed permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

You can watch this video to see some film clips of Maniac Magee

Next week…October 4, 2014 Patterson & Tebbetts–Middle School Series: Recipe For Success





How to Train Your Dragon: Just the Right Amount of Yuck

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

You have to admit that it’s pretty amazing when two movies are made from one book: “How to Train Your Dragon” written by Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III and “translated by” Cressida Cowell has been made into two animated movies – “How to Train Your Dragon” and the current  “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” But what really amazes me, is how the screenwriters were able to look past so much of the “yuck” of the book, concentrate on the story and create a beautifully animated version that doesn’t assault anyone’s sensibilities.

I’m a great believer in analyzing what makes a book excellent ( or in this case, popular). I can’t pretend to like the book. It’s way too ooey-gooey for my taste but kids love it, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Let’s take a look at the plot. Hiccup is a small, skinny, sensitive, reasonable son of a great Viking Chief and must prove himself in the annual dragon killing fest. Hiccup, however, believes that dragons are innately good and only attack out of fear and provocation. He decides to capture a dragon, train it and demonstrate how Vikings and dragons can live in harmony. After many false starts, Hiccup  and his dragon, Toothless (who got older and no longer fits that description) are able to accomplish what was thought to be impossible. Hiccup does this by speaking softly, not yelling as advised. They are put to the test, when the biggest, baddest dragon that ever lived prepares to attack the people of  Berk. Hiccup teaches the other kids how to train the smaller “good” dragons and the young people of this Norse kingdom save the day. Hiccup the Useless is now Hiccup the Useful!

Why do kids love the book? Beside the emergence of the underdog as a hero, we have a variety of techniques guaranteed to attract attention. There are numerous side illustrations that resemble childlike pencil doodles. The print utilizes different fonts, italics and bold. LARGE and small in the same sentence, as well as sentences without any spaces between words. The characters have names like Dogsbreath the Duhbrain, Gobber the Belch, Clueless, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Baggybum the Beerbelly. There are two competitive tribes: Hooligans and Meatheads. Lots of hyperbole, onomatopoeia, alliteration. Loads of name calling and aggressive, confrontational language. Let’s not forget that Hiccup speaks and understands the forbidden Dragonese which puts him at an advantage. For example, “Nee-ah crappa inna di hoosus, pishyou” translates into “No poo-ing in the house, please.” How about this one? “Mi Mama no likeit yum-yum on di bum” translates into “My mother does not like to be bitten on the bottom.”

Thankfully, the creators of  “How to Train Your Dragon” the movie eliminated most of the crappa inna di hoosus, downplayed the names, spared us a lot of the silly confrontation, made the characters older and of course, made the girls as tough or tougher than the boys which is de rigeur these days. What they wound up with is a beautifully animated movie that appeals to a broad age range. Screenplay by William Davies, Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders and the uncredited Adam F. Goldberg. Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders. Dreamworks recently released “How to Train Your Dragon 2.” which I have not  yet seen. I think we can expect the same level of excellence from the sequel.

Gentlemen,  you don’t know how relieved I am that you’ve left the crappa outta di hoosus.

© 2014 All rights reserved. No part of this content may be reprinted or used in any form without express permission from Elaine Donadio Writes.

To view some scenes from “How to Train Your Dragon” you can watch this short video.

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

June 2020
%d bloggers like this: