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The Water Horse


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About the Author

After 20 years as a farmer, Dick King-Smith turned to teaching and then to writing the children's books that have earned him critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.


Gr 2-5-Set in the 1930s, this story tells of a young Scottish girl, Kirstie, and her brother, Angus, who find a mysterious egg capsule washed up on shore after a storm and take it home. To their delight, this "mermaid's purse" hatches into a lovable sea monster they call Crusoe. It keeps growing and growing, until finally it is too big to live anywhere but in nearby Loch Ness. Children who enjoy animal stories will welcome one about this unusual creature. The characters are believable and, since King-Smith relates events from the point of view of the water horse as well as those of Kirstie and her family, readers get to know the friendly, not-at-all-fearsome monster. Occasional black-and-white illustrations effectively complement the text. Crusoe is bound to make a splash with children everywhere.-Linda W. Tilden, Cherry Hill Library, NJ

Tweaking Scottish legend, King-Smith (Babe: The Gallant Pig) fabricates a just-shy-of-believable fantasy about the origins of the Loch Ness monster. The story, set in the early 1930s, begins as eight-year-old Kirstie finds what looks like an oversize fish egg washed up on the seashore after a violent storm. She and her younger brother Angus tote it home, and next morning out hatches an odd-looking creature that their grandfather informs them is a kelpie, or water horse, a staple of Scottish folklore. Thanks in part to a steady supply of sardines and chocolate chip cookies, the "beastie" grows by leaps and bounds, dwarfing the family's bathtub, goldfish pond and a nearby lake, and in the end is transported secretly to his final home (which King-Smith refrains from naming until the very end). Told partly from the kelpie's point of view, the story perks along with seeming effortlessness. The cozy domestic formula that has worked well for King-Smith in other venues translates smoothly to this setting, and the author again achieves just the right balance between action, snappy dialogue and deft characterization. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8-10. (Sept.)

"When eight-year-old Kirstie finds a mysterious egg on the beach after a big storm, no one in the family expects it to hatch. But the next day, after a night in the bathtub, a mysterious little creature is born: part turtle, part horse, part frog, with an alligator tail. Only Kirstie's grandpa knows its true identity: a Water Horse, the sea monster of Scottish legend. The creature becomes a family pet, tamable and lovable, though with a huge appetite. As he grows and grows, the family must decide where to place him, somewhere away from those who would exploit him or, worse, accidentally become his dinner; perhaps Loch Ness would be safest. This well-written, fast-paced fantasy combines a popular subject with appealing, distinctive characters, humor, and drama. King-Smith's imaginative spin on an old myth makes the outrageous possible."--Booklist

"It's an ideal family read-aloud." --The Horn Book Magazine

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