The Water Horse

The Water Horse

4.8 6
by Dick King-Smith, David Parkins

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When eight-year-old Kirstie and her family go beach coming near their home in Scotland, she finds something that looks like a giant fish egg, and is just too interesting to leave on the beach. So she brings it home and sneaks it into the bathtub overnight. The next morning, she is surprised to find that the egg has hatched, but the newborn is unlike anything anyone… See more details below

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When eight-year-old Kirstie and her family go beach coming near their home in Scotland, she finds something that looks like a giant fish egg, and is just too interesting to leave on the beach. So she brings it home and sneaks it into the bathtub overnight. The next morning, she is surprised to find that the egg has hatched, but the newborn is unlike anything anyone has seen before. With a long neck, head like a horse, skin like a toad's, flippers like a turtle, and a tail like a crocodile, her brother Angus declares it a monster. Grandfather knows better and tells them it's a kelpie, or what he calls a water horse. The family keeps the baby and names it Crusoe. But as Crusoe grows, he becomes a bigger and bigger problem—literally. They are forced to find him a new home, away from people and boats. They settle on a beautiful Loch, now known as Loch Ness. From the author of beloved Babe comes the soon-to-be-classic story of how—thanks to the love and kindness of the human family that raises him—the Loch Ness Monster found his home.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"The cozy domestic formula that has worked well for the author in other venues translates smoothly to this setting," said PW of this legend of the Loch Ness monster's origins. Ages 8-10. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Have you ever wondered about the monster that is purported to live in Loch Ness? King-Smith provides a fanciful story with a touch of mystery and plenty of humor to explain how the famed creature ended up in the Loch. While there is plenty of foreshadowing for readers, knowing the ending really doesn't detract from the story. The family is filled with realistic characters including a grumpy grandfather, a harried mother, and a dad whose job keeps him away from home for long stretches, but it is basically a happy family that pulls together in their efforts to save the water horse. 1998 (orig.
School Library Journal
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
Kirkus Reviews
Searching for treasure washed up by a fierce coastal storm, eight-year-old Kirstie discovers a strange looking package-shaped object with long tendrils poking out from each of its four corners. When it hatches overnight, she finds herself the proud but puzzled keeper of what her grandfather identifies as a water horseþa sea creature of mythic stature, with a gentle nature but a ravenous appetite. What can the family do with a pet that grows rapidly from a scant six inches to more than fifteen feet? It may not be possible to find a permanent home for Crusoeþas he is namedþwhere he is safe as well as happy. King-Smith's obvious belief in the power of care and compassion informs this genial tale told from both the human and sea monster's perspectives; it's not one of his strongest stories, but will capture the fancies of his many fans. (Fiction. 8-11)

From the Publisher
"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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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.29(d)
910L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt

One look into the bathtub was enough to send her hurrying to get Angus. As usual, he awoke from the deepest of sleeps with his mind instantly tuned to his chief pleasure in life.

"I'm hungry," said Angus. "Is breakfast ready?"

"Ssssshh!" said Kirstie. "Don't talk so loud. We mustn't wake Mother or Grumble."

"Why not?"

"Because it's hatched. The thing. In the bathtub."

"Blow me down!" said Angus.

Angus enjoyed using what he thought to be terrible swear words, and his father, on his last shore leave, had taught him a careful selection of sailors' oaths.

They crept into the bathroom and stood side by side, gazing into the water.

"Look!" said Kirstie.

"Shiver my timbers!" said Angus.

The giant mermaid's purse lay on the bottom at the plug hole end like a sunken wreck. Wrecked it was, too, with a gaping hole in one side where something had emerged. At the other end of the bathtub swam that something.

When Kirstie was a grown woman with a family of her own, her children would ask her time and again to describe what it was she saw in the bathtub that early March morning when she was eight years of age.

"It was a little animal," she told them, ""such as neither I nor your Uncle Angus had ever seen before. Such as no one in the world had ever seen before, in fact. In size, it was about as big as a newborn kitten but quite a different shape. The first thing you noticed about it was its head, which was sticking out of the water on the end of quite a long neck. More than anything, it looked like a horse's head, with wide nostrils like a horse and even a suggestion of pricked ears. But its body was more like aturtle's. I don't mean it had a shell—it had kind of warty skin like a toad's, greeny grayish in color—but it had four flippers like a turtle has. And then it had a tail like a crocodile's. But just like you usually look at people's faces before you notice anything else about them, the thing that struck us was the look of its head. We didn't think about a crocodile or a toad or a turtle. We thought about a little horse."

Now, as Kirstie and Angus watched, the creature, which had been eyeing them in silence, dived with a plop, swam underwater with strong strokes of its little flippers, and surfaced again right in front of them. It looked up at them and chirruped.

"What does it want?" Kirstie said. The answer to this question was obvious to someone like Angus.

"Food, of course," he said. "It's hungry, like me."

"What shall we give it? What do you suppose it will eat? What do you suppose it is anyway? We don't even know what sort of animal it is."

"It's a monster," said Angus confidently. He had a number of picture books about monsters, and obviously this was one of them.

"But monsters are big," Kirstie said.

Angus sighed. "This isn't a monster monster," he said. "This is a baby one."

"A baby sea monster!" said Kirstie. "Well, then, it would eat fish, wouldn't it? We'll have to catch some fish for it."

A happy smile lit up Angus's round face. "We don't need to," he said. "There's some sardines in the pantry. I like sardines."

Opening the sardine can was difficult, but Kirstie managed to turn the key far enough to winkle one out, and they tiptoed upstairs again, carrying it on a saucer.

"Don't give it everything. It might not like it," said Angus hopefully, but when Kirstie pulled off a bit of sardine with her fingers and dropped it into the bathtub, the little animal snapped it up and gulped it down and chirruped loudly for more.

"It likes it," said Angus dolefully. He broke off another piece of fish, his hand moving automatically toward his mouth, but Kirstie said "Angus!" sharply, so he dropped it in the tub, contenting himself with licking the oil off his fingers. And, one after the other, they fed the creature the rest of the sardine. Then they went down to the pantry again to see if they could get another one out of the can."

With a great effort, for the key was very stiff to turn, Kirstie had at last got the can fully open when suddenly they heard footsteps on the stairs and Mother came into the kitchen.

"Kirstie!" she said. "Whatever are you up to? Who told you you could help yourself to sardines—and long before breakfast time, too?"

"It's for our sea monster," said Angus.

"Don't be so silly, Angus!" said Mother sharply. "Look at your fingers, all oily, you greedy little boy! And you, Kirstie, you're old enough to know better!"

"We haven't eaten any, Mother, honestly," said Kirstie. "And we have got a sea monster, truly we have."

"Now you listen to me, Kirstie," said Mother. "Whatever it is that you two have brought home—a lobster, a crab, whatever it is that you're wasting my expensive sardines on—you will take it straight back, d'you hear me?"

"Oh, no, Mother!" cried Kirstie. "Please not."

"First thing after breakfast it goes back in the sea," said Mother firmly. "Where is it anyway?"

"In the bathtub," said Angus.

"In the bathtub!" cried Mother. "Oh, no!"

"It's quite happy there," said Angus.

"Well, that's more than your grandfather will be by now. As I came down, I saw him going along the corridor with his towel and his shaving kit. He'll have a fit!"

"Specially if it's still hungry," said Angus.

But when the three of them reached the bathroom, the door was open and there was Grumble kneeling by the bathtub. With his bald head and his droopy mustache he looked like a walrus about to take a dip. He was staring silently at the little animal as it paddled about the water, now glistening with sardine oil. To their amazement they saw that he was smiling broadly. Grumble, smiling!

"It's that thing you found on the beach after the storm, isn't it Kirstie?"

"Yes, Grumble. It hatched in the night."

"I made her put salt in the water," said Angus.

"I doubt you need have bothered with that," said Grumble. "It's an air-breathing beastie, you see, like a seal. Fresh water or salt, I doubt it matters, so long as it has plenty of fish to eat."

"We've given it a sardine," said Kirstie.

Grumble got to his feet. "You've a clever couple of kids here," he said to Mother. "How I wish I could have found such a thing when I was their age. There were many stories then of this creature and I believed all of them, but I never thought I'd see one."

"You sound as though you know what this thing is," said Mother.

"I should," said Grumble. "Wasn't I born and brought up on the banks of Loch Morar? And wasn't there supposed to be one of these living in that very loch?"

"What is it, Grumble?" asked Kirstie.

"Before I tell you," said Grumble, "you must promise faithfully to tell no one outside the family. Not a word to any of your friends at school. Understand?"

"Oh, yes," said Kirstie. "Cross my heart." She crossed it. Angus crossed his stomach, perhaps by mistake, but possibly because it was to him the most important organ.

"Right," said Grumble. "Then I'll tell you. It's a monster."

"I told you," said Angus.

"Always there've been tales of sightings of such a beastie, sometimes at sea, more often in a loch," said Grumble. "Oh, when I was a boy, how I longed to see the kelpie."

"Is that what it's called?" said Kirstie.

"That's one name for it," said Grumble, "but the other is the one that I like. Most folks call it the Water Horse."

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Gabriel Rosenstock
No modern poet in Irish has mined folk material to such advantage.

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