Am I the only one who didn't realize that the How to Train your Dragon stories were based on books! My 8 year old son and I came across Cressida Cowell's book series at the library. The first book was published in 2003 and there are currently 11 books published. My son and I started with the 11th book (because that is what was at the library) How to Betray a Dragon's Hero, published in Sept 2013. At the end of the book, the author notes that the 12th book is coming soon, and will be the final book in the series. Check out the book series website howtotrainyourdragonbooks.com.
I was so blown away by the book we read. It was artfully done with skilled prose and pencil drawings. The book moves alone quickly, and we always had a hard time stopping at the end of a chapter. The 17th chapter, Sword Fight, was so wonderful, I took it to work and shared it with many friends. It was all about what makes a hero, a king, a leader. It was about hatred and forgiveness, and about identity and what choices we have when someone else has what we want.
The books embody great character and morales, wonderful prose and illustrations, and the timeless epic tradition of books like the Narnia series and The Lord of the Rings. Now, mind you, they are different in many respects too...but there is a journey across many lands, with multiple types of dragons, and the battle between good and evil. The hero endures trials and overcomes obstacles, until he becomes more and more the king he was destined to be.
My son is 8 and is able to read the books alone, although I do think he misses a lot that way because of the vocabulary used. He seems to get more out of it when we read together. I love the books, so they are definitely appropriate for anyone about 3rd grade and older, depending on reading level and proficiency.