HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Water Horse
Author: Dick King-Smith
Illustrator: David Parkins
Publisher: Yearling, republished 2007
Related website: http://www.randomhousekids.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 6 – 9
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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King-Smith, Dick. The Water Horse (published in 1990 by Fox Busters Ltd.; republished in 2007 by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York City, NY). Do you know what a “kelpie” is? It is 1930, and eight year old Kirstie and her little brother Angus live with their parents and their grandfather, whom they call Grumble, on the coast of Scotland. One day in March, while their merchant seaman father is away in quiet, tropical waters, there is a great storm, and afterwards, while they are beachcombing, Kirstie finds an egg the size of a cookie tin on the shore. The children take it home and put it in the bathtub to see if it will hatch. It does. And what do you suppose it is? It’s a kelpie, a sea monster, a Water Horse.
Eventually Mother, Grumble, and even Father when he returns home all find out about the creature. They decide to call it Crusoe. As it grows, what can they do with it? There is the fish pond, but nearby are enemies such as otters and herons, and the pond freezes in winter. Then there is the small lochan close to their house, but a lot of traffic goes by, and the family is afraid that someone will spot Crusoe, who continues to grow bigger and bigger. Where do you think that he ends up? Dick King-Smith is best known as award-winning author of Babe: The Gallant Pig. We have read and reviewed some of his other books, such as Harry’s Mad, The School Mouse, and Mr. Ape.
We watched the 2007 film The Water Horse directed by Jay Russell with screenplay written by Robert Nelson Jacobs, and starring Alex Etel, recently as our family video. It was so intriguing that when I saw that the movie was based on a Dick King-Smith children’s novel, I wanted to read the book. Although significant differences exist between the film and the novel, there is no content in either which parents need be concerned about. It is not only a sweet, charming story that children seem to enjoy greatly but is also a worthwhile adventure for readers of all ages as an imaginative explanation for a very well known legend.