Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Water Horse, by Dick King-Smith

Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope Is the WordTime for another Read Aloud Thursday hosted by Amy at Hope is in the Word.

Last week we talked about Babe: The Gallant Pig (linked to my review.) After we finished that story, it was somewhat of a challenge to convince Bookworm1 to take up another chapter book. Nevertheless, I laid a stack of possibilities in front of him to choose from and he decided to go with The Water Horse, also by Dick King-Smith. The idea of a sea dragon was compelling enough to get him back into a chapter book story and boy did we both enjoy his pick!

If A Mouse Called Wolf was a hit, The Water Horse was even more so! It has everything that we could possibly want right now: an often hungry and usually funny boy about Bookworm1's age, a mysterious sea dragon that the family treats as a pet. The sea dragon also did us the favor of eating other sea life which we could then read and talk about!

In case you are unfamiliar with the premise of the story, it is this (stolen shameless from Amazon):

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.

If you've happened to seen the movie of the same title, I am happy to tell you that the book and the movie have almost nothing in common with one another. Jonathan and I saw the movie and although we thought it was creative and good, it pales in comparison to the book. The book creates a picture of a strong family unit who discover a great secret and decided to keep and care for it together. It is a matter of pride and honor that they are the ones to care for this water creature and there is a lot of teamwork involved in doing so. King-Smith did a marvelous job creating characters that come alive for you as you read. Bookworm1 laughed outloud at several points in the story and was riveted to the book the entire time I was reading it. He loved it so much, actually, that we consumed the book in two days flat! (In my mind, that's the mark of a good story! He didn't want to walk away from it and neither did I! We were completely captivated and couldn't wait to find out what happened.)

I feel like I can do nothing but gush about this book. Basic points:

1. It's not like the movie. It's much, much better!
2. It's funny.
3. It ties in a bit of history, as the first sighting of the Loch Ness monster occurred in the summer of 1933, which is about the time the characters in this story took Crusoe to the larger loch.

The book leaves you wondering about the real life mystery of the Loch Ness Monster, of course. After reading the book we hopped over to the computer and looked at pictures of the Loch Ness Monster and talked about the possibilities of its existence.

In short, The Water Horse is a wonderful reading experience - especially for young boys. It's short (larger print, 118 pages, pictures scattered throughout) and engaging and we highly recommend it!

Go Read It! Go Read It! Go Read It! (That sort of thing.)

Additional note: The Water Horse was so awesome that the moment we closed the book, Bookworm1 asked me for another chapter book to read. Again I spread out a selection of books to choose from and again he went for another King-Smith. He selected Mr. Ape which we read the first chapter off before tossing it to the side. In this particular story, Mr. Ape is a man who likes to be alone. He didn't mind it at all when his wife told him she didn't like him and left him. Mr. Ape rather gloried in the fact that he was unliked and unloved. The characters in the book were not very, um, kind, shall we say? I didn't care for the family dynamics at all. The character of Mr. Ape was rather obnoxious and unthinking and we we opted not to read that title and will not be revisiting it. I think that King-Smith is a hit-or-miss for us. That said, I couldn't be more delighted with The Water Horse (and A Mouse Called Wolf.)


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Wonderful, Carrie! Isn't it wonderful when they don't want to quit reading?!? I think we need to read this!

Annette W. said...

WOW, that is a glowing recommendation from Bookworm1!

Janet said...

This sounds like one to look for. Older Daughter has enjoyed some King-Smith books, but she hasn't read this one. (I just asked her, and she looked at the cover in your post and said, "No, but let's.")

Sky said...

Good to hear! I have the book but haven't read it as I watched the movie on a whim and DESPISED it! Yay, I can now read it without waiting to wince as soon as I spread the cover!

Serena said...

Oh I'm so excited to hear about this book. My youngest son has had a Loch Ness Monster obsession for years. Watched the movie and liked it but books are ALWAYS better. :)

Shonya said...

Chuckle, love your passionate response to his books (whether you love them or passionately dislike them, wink).

Stephanie Kay said...

Ok, I'm marking this one to read. I'm starting a new project with my kids next week - Read aloud 100 books in 2012. Will's going to read 100 books on his own. Though tonight at supper he felt 100 wasn't enough and has set the goal at 1000. I'm all for encouraging him to work toward the new goal. Anyway, this book sounds like a good one for my kids.

Alice@Supratentorial said...

Oh, goodness, yet another for the TBR list. :)

Stephanie said...

I think I'm going to note this for summer read aloud for us. I've seen the movie (and I'm sure N1 has read this one) but I haven't.

Laura S Reading said...

I enjoyed the movie and now am curious when you say the book is so very different. I will have to find a copy.

Cheryl said...

Thanks for reviewing this book.I think this is something my youngest son will enjoy.

Carrie said...

DogsMom (& others) - Dawn actually reviewed The Water Horse movie in a Books on Screen post at 5 Minutes for Books awhile back and I think we have the exact same opinion about the changes between the book and movie. Here's the link if you'd like to read her thoughts there:

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