A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Water Horse is a charming short novel from Dick King-Smith, author of Babe: The Gallant Pig. In the story, set in the 1930s, a baby sea monster hatches from an egg discovered by a young girl named Kirstie. Kirstie and her family nurture the "beastie," which they name Crusoe, by feeding it canned fish from their own larder. The family's efforts to nurture and protect the creature become more complicated as Crusoe grows larger. There's one scene in which it is clear that Crusoe has eaten a live swan, but no graphic violence is included. This is an entertaining, fantastical story with two sweet children at the center and a scenic Scottish backdrop. In 2007, the story was adapted for a film that expands the plot, turning it into a World War II drama/adventure. The movie is good, but it's suspenseful with threats of danger that don't exist in the book.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In Dick King-Smith's THE WATER HORSE, Kirstie finds what appears to be an unusually large fish egg on the beach. She takes it home and puts it in the bathtub. When a strange creature emerges, she and her brother, Angus, feed it sardines. Their grandfather, whom the children call Grumble, recognizes the creature as a sea monster of legend that locals call a "water horse." The children and their grandfather name their monster "Crusoe," because he was a castaway. The monster and its appetite grow to extreme proportions, and soon Crusoe must be moved to a pond outside. The kids' mother encourages the children to catch fish in the loch near their home, to keep up with the water horse's hunger. When the weather turns cold, the family fears that Crusoe's pond will freeze over, and he will be trapped inside with no ability to breathe. Meanwhile, the children's father, who has been away serving in the military, returns on leave, and he helps Grumble and the children lure Crusoe out of the pond and into the nearby loch. However, as the monster continues to grow at an alarming rate, they face another problem: how to keep the friendly beast, who associates humans with food and companionship, hidden from outsiders. Finally, they devise a plan to move Crusoe to a larger body of water that can become his forever home.
Is it any good?
This short novel from Dick King-Smith holds many of the same endearing qualities as the writer's well-known work about Babe the pig. It features a special bond between human and animal, and although there is a bit of suspense at times, there's much more charm than excitement to the tale. The Water Horse also features a quiet sense of humor similar to the tone of Babe: The Gallant Pig. Young readers will be amused by Angus' constant hunger and the family's close call with a police officer. This is an entertaining story that's simple to read and easy to enjoy.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Author: Dick King-Smith
- Illustrator: Melissa Manwill
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Yearling Books
- Publication date: January 1, 1998
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 11
- Number of pages: 118
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 23, 2021
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