The Water Horse

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
The Water Horse Book Poster Image
Another sweet animal tale from author of "Babe."

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Non-Scottish readers will learn what a loch is, and will become familiar with other English words that are more common to Scottish speakers, such as "beastie," "wee," and "dram." An appendix to the story explains the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.

Positive Messages

Friendship comes in surprising forms.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grumble and the children's father are compassionate problem solvers, and Kirstie and Angus learn from their example. 

Violence & Scariness

The Water Horse eats a swan. The bird simply disappears underwater, and a few feathers float back to the surface. 


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 PigIn 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byCyndi M. January 27, 2017
My daughter is almost eight and loved this movie. If you enjoy sharing both fantasy and facts with your kids, believe in discussion after the film, then this... Continue reading
Parent Written bybje July 11, 2015
Kid, 12 years old May 30, 2011

A heartwarming story about friendship and caring for others!

I loved this book! It was a charming read! It had positive messages about friendship and caring for others! It is not violent. Unless you consider the water hor... Continue reading

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 ...

  • Families can talk about the Loch Ness Monster. Does The Water Horse make the monster seem real?

  • Did you see the movie of The Water Horse? How are the book and movie different?

  • Many people believe in the legend of a Loch Ness Monster. Can you think of some other legends? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy tales and animal stories

Themes & Topics

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