Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Water Horse

The Water Horse
Dick King Smith

Crown, 1990 120 pgs  

Grades 2-4

Kirstie and her brother Angus find a mysterious egg that blows to the shore of their depression-era coastal Scotland home.  After moving it safely to the bathtub , the egg hatches and a sea creature emerges.  Grumble. the children's grandfather, identifies it as a "water horse", better known as a Loch Ness Monster.  They name the little guy Crusoe and watch in fascination as their new friend grows out of the bathtub and must be moved to a small pond outside the house.  Mother isn't thrilled with the new house guest, especially since he's eating them out of house and home, but she reluctantly allows him to stay.  Sailor father returns from a voyage in time to help the family move Crusoe to a small local loch and then, later, to the enormous Loch Ness.  The family trains Crusoe to stay underwater until called and they are confident in his safety.  Plans are made to go visit Crusoe, their now forever friend.

I read The Water Horse sometime in the early 1990s and enjoyed it very much.  The first time I used it with a book group was when the movie came out in 2007.  This spring I have chosen to use it again.  We will show the movie and compare the two stories and formats.  Now on my third reading, the book still holds up.  Dick King Smith is a master at interjecting humor in his slight, tightly woven yarns.  The Water Horse is a great tale.  It makes magic believable and gives us a slice of life from pre-WWII Britain.  The plot is linear without extra characters or secondary plot lines mucking up the works.  Its a straight story, completely digestible for the intended age group.  The Water Horse provides fantasy for those who might not like fantasy and historical fiction for those who don't like historical fiction.  It would appeal to both girls and boys.  In short, this is a good, solid piece of literature I would highly recommend for early chapter book readers, that is well written and extremely approachable.  I'm glad I chose to read this book again and will happily keep it in my rotation.

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