The Stars of Stage and Screen…Song #38/250: This Is Berk from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, How To Train Your Dragon

If I was to ever write an advice book for expectant parents, one of the first things that I would say to them would be to make time to read with your children from the moment they are born. I could easily spend the remainder of this post discussing language development and literacy, in general. But, as important as that is, I would also stress to new parents the equally important aspect of the bonding that takes place between parent and child when you hold your newly born baby close to your beating heart and share stories together. If you are lucky, the act of sharing stories and songs will inspire your child to develop a love of language and of reading and of personal discovery. My wife and I feel very fortunate that both of our daughters have grown into literate, knowledgeable young women who are critical consumers of information and who also simply enjoy a good read when time allows.

The original How To Train Your Dragon book.

Some of my fondest memories as a father to date stem from reading with my girls when they were younger. Because of the way my wife and I divided up our parental responsibilities, I ended up reading mostly with my eldest daughter, Leah. My wife spent the bedtime ritual mostly with our youngest daughter, Sophie. For Leah and I, reading together was a very special part of our day. We started out with picture books but Leah’s ability to attend for longer periods of time rapidly grew, which meant that our reading material soon transitioned over into chapter books. If a book she liked happened to be part of a series, then Leah liked to read the whole series. We started out with easier chapter book series such as Magic Tree House and the Rainbow Magic fairy books. Before long, we were into the Harry Potter books, The Chronicles of Narnia, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables and so on. Along the way, Leah discovered some interesting newer books that ended up becoming a series in their own right. One of the best of these started with a book called How To Train Your Dragon by British author Cressida Cowell. What started out as one book grew to become a series of twelve. Leah and I read them all. Three feature-length movies have been released, too. Leah and I have seen those, too. In time, Leah grew up and asked that she be allowed to read on her own at bedtime because she could read books faster to herself than I could read aloud. She also wanted to start exploring books that involved more grown up themes that were better suited to the actual events of her teenage life. So, our bedtime reading ritual came to an end…sort of. What has happened is that we have transitioned to reading together at bedtime to reading together online. Leah is one of the most faithful readers of my blog. I appreciate her comments and the questions that she asks about what I write. In turn, she has her own book-related blog (which you can check out here). She always asks me to proofread her posts before she hits the publish button. I enjoy reading what she writes, too. She is a pretty amazing writer.

How To Train Your Dragon: the movie.

Getting back to How To Train Your Dragon, on the surface, the series involves a community of Vikings who live on the rugged, rocky Island of Berk. As the series begins, these Vikings feel threatened by a wide assortment of dragons who steal their sheep and burn their homes with regularity. One of rites of passage for young Vikings is that they have to capture and train a wild dragon, taming it for a life of servitude under Viking rule. Like many book series, the main characters are younger. In How To Train Your Dragon, we get to follow a young Viking named Hiccup Horrendous the Third and his friends as they grow up together in this dangerous world of Vikings and dragons. But again, like most series of this type, what you see on the surface is not the real message of the books. As Hiccup and his friends grow up, they soon discover that dragons are not their enemies and should not be viewed as an enslaved workforce waiting to be captured and subdued into obedience. Instead, Hiccup and his friends come to respect dragons as being sentient beings in their own right and discover that it is possible to establish relationships with them based upon mutual respect and tolerance. Taken to the next level, it seems obvious that the lessons meted out in these twelve books could easily be adapted to the real world. Instead of Vikings and dragons, we could have capitalists vs communists, white nationalists vs immigrants, heterosexuals vs anyone who chooses to love differently, men vs women, the super rich vs the rest of us and so on it goes.

How To Train Your Dragon musical composer John Powell.

The musical score of the movie How To Train Your Dragon was created by a composer named John Powell. Mr. Powell is famous for creating the scores for animated feature-length films and has worked on many popular movies such as Happy Feet, Chicken Run, Rio, Shrek, Horton Hears a Who and many more. Powell trained under the mentorship of film scorer extraordinaire Hans Zimmer. Like Zimmer, John Powell has been nominated for multiple Grammy awards and, as well, for an Academy Award for Best Score for today’s film, How To Train Your Dragon. The soundtrack for this movie is almost all orchestral/instrumental. In order to best illustrate the difference a great score can make, I am going to share three videos of the opening composition entitled “This Is Berk”. In the first video, I shall share with you the opening scene as it appears in the film (complete with dialogue and special effects sounds, too). In the second video, I will share the same scene, except this time it will only have the orchestral music present. Finally, I will share with you a live performance by an actual orchestra that took place as part of the international animation awards. In this video, you can watch the orchestra play live against the backdrop of a huge screen that is showing the opening of the movie. Taken together, all three videos give you a glimpse behind the scenes at how a film score works in conjunction with dialogue and special effects. Specifically, in the case of How To Train Your Dragon, you will get to see how this saga of tolerance and empathy begins on an isolated island teeming with fear and ignorance. You will also be introduced to Hiccup, who is one of the great characters in modern children’s literature (a worthy peer to the likes of Harry Potter, Laura Ingalls, Anne with an “e”, Jack and Annie, Prince Caspian and so many more).

On a more personal note for my area readers, there is going to be a special screening of the original How To Train Your Dragon movie on Saturday, April 22 here in Cobourg. The screening will be held at the Rainbow Cinemas and is a fundraiser for the fantastic local charity The Rose Quest. (You can visit the official Rose Quest website here for more information). So, if you want to see a sweeping, epic animated story on the big screen, with its Academy Award winning score and wonderful message of tolerance and understanding, all the while supporting a great cause, then you know where to go and what to do.

Happy birthday to this beauty! Thanks for a lifetime of wonderful memories…including introducing me to How To Train Your Dragon.

For now, I will end this post as it began. The Arts have a unique ability to touch the hearts of those who experience them. Reading with my children enriched my life and helped my heart grow. Because of books and stories, we got to discuss all manner of subject matter, visit museums as a follow up, listen to music, watch movies together and much, much more. The most important part of that last sentence is that we got to share these experiences together. Spending time with those you love is the ultimate luxury. I wouldn’t have traded a single second of anything that I did with my girls. Life is truly a gift. I will conclude with a simple birthday wish for Leah (whose birthday is today): may your days ahead continue to be filled with opportunities to experience the world in the company of those you love, whether that be with your mother and I, your sister, your extended family, your friends or with your life partner who is out there waiting to meet you right now! Your company has always been like a treasure to all who are lucky enough to know you. May you feel that in your heart always and forever. Thanks for being you. Happy birthday.

The link to the video for the song “This Is Berk” (the complete opening scene) from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film How To Train Your Dragon can be found here.

The link to the video for the song “This Is Berk” (the opening scene with music only) from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film How To Train Your Dragon can be found here.

The link to the video of a live performance of “This Is Berk” from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film How To Train Your Dragon can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the film How To Train Your Dragon can be found here.

The link to an article written about the books Leah and I ended up reading together can be found here. (It was a guest post I wrote for a friend who runs the fabulous website Happy Hooligans. This website is all about children learning through play. It has scores of activities, craft and cooking ideas and so on. As websites for children go, Happy Hooligans is the gold standard in my opinion).

***All original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2023

Museum of Memories: a Lifetime of Reading to my Daughter.

You never know what a day is going to bring. Yesterday, while scrolling through my Twitter feed, I came across a tweet from an American teacher. She tweeted about her Grade 5 class receiving a “Mystery Box” as part of a literacy programme sponsored by a blog called @BreakoutEDU. She showed photos of her students using clues that came with the box to crack secret codes which, in the end, opened to reveal a book called, Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet. The teacher’s original tweet was aimed at the author, letting her know how excited her students were to begin reading Chasing Vermeer.

Being the supportive fellow that I am, I tweeted back to this teacher and told her that Leah and I had read this book aloud together a few years ago, along with the other two books in this trilogy and enjoyed them immensely. I went on to say that, in fact, Leah enjoyed the books so much that she had a framed print of the Vermeer art work mentioned in the story hanging in her bedroom as I typed.

Within a few minutes, I received a reply from the author, Blue Balliett, herself. Like all authors, she expressed her gratitude to me for informing her that her work had made a difference in some reader’s life. IMG_2720In turn, I sent her a photo Leah’s bedroom so she could see the print for herself. ***You can see the print on the right side of Leah’s bookcase, in the middle of the column of three framed works. The painting is called, Lady Writing.  Blue Balliett replied that Leah’s room was “the bedroom of her dreams”.

This got me thinking.

Leah and I have read together from the day she was born.  As a result, we have read thousands of books together. That time we shared was very precious and has helped create many warm memories for us, both, of the books we read, the characters we came to care about, the conversations that occurred, the warmth of our snuggles and much, much more.  Reading with your children is always about more than the words on the page. It is a bonding experience that is quite loving and profound. In time, as you read an author’s words, you start to feel the books in your hearts and minds.

For most of Leah’s early life, the books we shared were simpler in nature because her intellect was not mature enough for weighty concepts. But, with each book or book series read, her mind grew stronger and her inventory of literary experiences swelled. Soon she was ready for longer, more complex stories. The first series we read that made an emotional impact on us was The Little House on the Prairie books. We read all eight books consecutively. When it came time for Pa Ingalls to help Laura into Almanzo’s wagon and then, watch them ride off together, as husband and wife to their new home, I choked up with emotion. Leah and I both knew that scene was as much about us and how we will one day feel in that situation, as it ever was about Laura and her Pa.

IMG_2710We finished the final book in late Fall. Because of the emotional impact of the series, I decided to try and find something that I could give to Leah for Christmas that would serve to remind her of our time reading Little House together. My search took me to the Laura Ingalls Wilder website. There, for sale, was the china shepherdess doll that Pa had given to Ma Ingalls in their early days together. The same doll that had accompanied them across America. This doll was my gift to Leah that Christmas and has sat on a shelf in her bedroom ever since.

The commemoration of a shared experience with a story or series started with the china shepherdess doll and became a tradition that we continued with each subsequent  book series.   The Vermeer print was the piece chosen to remember the Chasing Vermeer trilogy. What follows are snapshots of other memorials to books that Leah and I shared.


A pencil drawing entitled, Lucy at the Lamp Post, hangs on Leah’s wall by her window. It says, “A Fairy Tale begins…” on it and serves as a reminder of our joy at reading The Chronicles of Narnia and how every epic adventure begins with a fateful decision and a leap of faith.

IMG_2709  We read the entire How To Train Your Dragon series. This framed print was the first time I paired a quote from the series with art work. The quote was uttered by the main character, Hiccup and goes like this:

Because: Love never dies. What is within is more important than what is without. The Best is not always the most obvious. And, once you’ve loved truly, Thor, then you know the way.


One of my favourite book series was Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising books. There are those who claim that this is the series that most influenced J.K. Rowling when she was writing Harry Potter.  In any case, the quest that 11 year old Will is on to collect six “signs” and help the forces of Light in their battle with the forces of Darkness, is summed up in this important poem from the books.

When the DARK comes rising, six shall turn it back;

three from the circle, three from the track.

Wood, bronze, iron, fire, water, stone,

Five will return and one go alone.

Iron for the birthday. Bronze carried long.

Wood from the burning. Stone out of song.

Fire from the candle-ring. Water from the thaw.

Six signs the circle and Grail gone before.

Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold,

played to wake the sleepers; oldest of the old.

Power of the Greenwitch, lost beneath the sea.

All shall find the light at last; silver on the tree.

Leah can quote this from memory.


Our memory from The Hunger Games trilogy was “Rue’s Lullaby”, as written in the book. If you have read the books or seen the movies then, you will know how poignant this scene was.

Deep in the grass, under the willow,

a bed of grass, a soft green pillow,

lay down your head and close your eyes

When again they open, the sun will rise.

Here it’s safe and here it’s warm,

Here the daisies guard you from every harm.

Here your dreams are sweet,

Tomorrow brings them true,

Here’s the place where I love you.

Deep in the meadow, hidden far away,

A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam’s ray,

Forget your woe and let your troubles lay,

When it’s morning, they’ll wash away.

And here….is the place…where I love you.


From author Lois Lowry came The Giver trilogy.  From that set of books, we opted for the following quote:

   It is better, I think, to climb out in search of something instead of hating what you are leaving behind.

IMG_2718Finally, Leah and I are big fans of Phillip Pullman and His Dark Materials trilogy. I maintain that the final scene in the final book is one of the best scenes in Children’s Literature. From it, a speech of Love that spans the entirety of Space and Time.

I will love you forever, whatever happens.

Til I die and after I die.

And when I find my way out of the Land of the Dead, I’ll drift about forever, all atoms, til I find you again.

I’ll be looking for you, every moment…every, single moment.

And when we do find each other, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart.

Every atom of me and every atom of you…

We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams.

When they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one

They’ll have to take two; one of me and one of you.

Leah spends a lot of time on her own in her room now that she is becoming a teenager. But, as she does, I am still there; an inseparable part of who she is and who she is becoming. Her room is a museum. A museum of memories from a lifetime of reading wonderful books while surrounded by Love.

If you care to know more about how to read with your child so that they come to love books as Leah has, please pop over to my friend, Jackie Currie’s blog, Happy Hooligans. I guest-posted for her a while back. In that post, I told the story of Leah and I and the whole list of books we read together. The post is called,  75 of the Very Best Chapter Books for Girls between 5 – 13.

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