Book: Horatio's One Wish - A Tale of One Heroic Hedgehog, Two Loyal Hamsters, and a Missing River Otter by Joshua Kriesbergcategories: Book, Adventure, Animals, Hedgehog, Hamster, Otter, Coming-of-Age, Loyalty, Friendship, Family, Courage, Compassion, Sacrifice, Children's Animal Novel
Joshua Kriesbergabout this book: One of the questions I often receive about this book is: why did you use animal characters?
First, I like the physical attributes of animals and how they can be used in ways to highlight a character’s nature. My main character is Horatio, a hedgehog, who lives alone, separate from other animals. His primary physical attribute is his quills, which also separate him from other animals and make him distinctive. His best friend is Rollic, a river otter. River otters are naturally playful and fun-loving animals. But because river otters spend most of their time in the water, there’s a natural separation between these two friends. At the end of the first chapter, when Rollic is floating down the river, saying good-bye to Horatio: “Horatio waved back, feeling evermore earthbound the farther Rollic floated away.”
At the same time, in fiction, you can give animals attributes which are just the opposite of how they are commonly perceived. This can make the story surprisingly fun. For example, Horatio is accompanied on his journey by twin hamsters, Whisklet and Whimser, and their snail pals, Mish and Mosh. Snails are known to be slow moving creatures. But not in this book! Mish and Mosh can move like lightening—as long as they are not being watched. “Have you ever seen how fast snails move when you’re not watching them?” Whimser asks Horatio. The speed of the snails helps the small mammals in their travels, “more than we can say.”
Second, I decided to choose small mammals because I wanted characters that were vulnerable. The predator-prey relationship is a strong theme in this story and is unique to the animal world. The predator-prey relationship adds immediate tension to the story because the characters that are the potential prey—in the case of my story it’s a small hedgehog and his hamster companions--can be attacked at any moment.
Small mammals are also metaphors for children, who are smaller than the larger kids and adults around them. Small mammals have a common bond for this reason. "Small mammals like us need to stick together,” as Whisklet explains.
Finally, I wrote the story with animal characters because people love animals, of all kinds. As children we have stuffed toy animals that have all the emotions and adventures that any person might have. And that istrue for Horatio’s One Wish.
Ultimately, this book is a fun adventure story, and if a reader enjoys it just for the fun of reading it, that’s fine. If it instills a love of reading in a single child who simply enjoyed reading an adventure story, then it succeeded. But there are also important themes in this story—there are themes about friendship, courage, loyalty, family, compassion, and sacrifice. So the story can be read at many different levels, which is one of the reasons reviewers have said it’s a story that appeals to all ages.
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