The Water Horse by Dick King-Smith

After a stormy night in Scotland eight-year-old Kristie finds a mysterious egg on the beach. No one in the family expects it to hatch, except for Kristie. 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 Grumble knows its true identity: a Water Horse, the sea monster of Scottish legend. Naturally Kristie’s mom isn’t too keen on having a baby-sea-monster in her bathtub.

Also the huge appetite of that small monster is quite a problem, we’re in the year 1930 and food supplies were a problem indeed. Especially when you have a brother (Angus) who’s only delight lies in eating. But nonetheless the creature soon becomes a family pet, it is tame and lovable, though with a huge appetite for fish of all kinds.

“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’d never thought I’d see one.”
- Grumble

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. Loch Ness seem to be safest place to stay for Crusoe, the Water Horse. The journey to that Loch is an adventure with some obstacles to manage, and with some great insights into the habits and strange ways of grown-ups (or people who think are grown-up).

Review on Book

This well-written, fast-paced fantasy combines a popular subject with appealing, distinctive characters, humour, coming-of-age and drama. An old myth is outrageously being re-told and we do get an explanation why Loch Ness’ Nessie never shows up, but everyone’s certain that it’s there. Well actually its name is Crusoe, not Nessie…

What I especially liked in this charming tale is the fact that the point of view is regularly being changed from the (all knowing human) storyteller’s to the (actually not really monstrous) sea creature’s. Thus we can have a peek into the Water Horse’s thoughts and fears which makes this story even more delightful and entertaining.

“That’s the only complaint I have.
The food’s yummy, a tickling’s great and the giants are obviously very decent creatures.
But I’m beginning to feel a bit cramped in this small cold white prison.
I wish they had somewhere bigger to put me.”
- Crusoe

Review on Nat’s reading

What a delight listening to Nat’s various voices: a young curious girl, an old grumpy grandpa, a picky mom, a small gutsy brother and a seafaring father who’s a partner in crime. Needless to say that Nat indulges in all kinds of Scottish accents, even Crusoe’s language is deeply drenched with the warm, gurgling and sympathetic sounds.

Such a delight is to be had from an hilarious spoof on BBC’s Oxford English as one of the highlights in this phonetic adventure in the northern parts of Great Britain. You can sense in each scene that this one was fun to do. This is especially true for the depiction of nutty city-based hikers and a more than overlooking local policeman in the Highlands that turn our modern world perception upside down.

This is masterly storytelling for young pre-teens. Most certainly our heroes find help the minute you’d expect it least. This audio version is a fantastic addition to the coming-of-age movie that’s out now in international cinemas. Go on and get yourself a tasty sardine for your Water Horse, eh nope this audio-book. It’ll brighten up your day.

Out on CD in an unabridged version from BBC Audiobooks from January 7, 2008. Running time 90 minutes. ISBN 978-1-405-68748-5

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