Billy and Old Smoko Jack Lasenby, Longacre, 216 pages, 2007, paperback, NZ$17.99
There are lots of ratbags, ruffians and rapscallions in our young people’s literature, most of them created by Jack Lasenby, so it is only fair that Jack has now created a dignified, refined, and well-spoken character that every young Kiwi can look up to. That this polite paragon is a Clydesdale farm-horse called Old Smoko is a bonus. When young Billy gives him a brush-up and polish, Old Smoko declares himself to be, “Ineffably better. Words cannot express my thanks.”
Since various domestic disasters, familiar to readers of the Brothers Grimm, have just befallen Billy and his dad, they need all the help a tree-climbing, talking Clydesdale can give them. Wicked witches disguised as stepmothers, a queen disguised as the Rawleighs Man, cannibal eels and man-eating Captain Cookers cannot prevail against a brave lad and his horse, especially when they have both read the mythology section of the School Journal.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable, very funny, read-aloud yarn, guaranteed to bring our heroes to a world safe for roast pork sandwiches. With crackling. And lashings of apple sauce.
This review by Trevor Agnew first appeared in The Press, Christchurch on 10th November 2007.