In this funny farce by Clare Elsom, a pompous, egotistical statue comes to life and strikes up a very unlikely friendship with a seven-year-old girl. Horace is a lord commander; a seventeenth century hero who has been stuck on a plinth for centuries and is sick of graffiti and pigeon poo. Harriet is bored and impatient to grow up, and eager to take on more responsibility…though a three hundred and fifty-year-old, belligerent noble is perhaps a little more than she was hoping for.
It is hard for Horace to understand why the public no longer adore and serve him. Harriet has to stop him from renovating her grandad’s shed into a galleon, and from eating all the food in a cafe without paying, and from storming Mayor Silverbottom’s mansion. She also has to help Horace navigate his way round mobile phones and cappuccinos and public libraries, all of which provide moments of hilarity as Horace buffoons about all over town.
Everything about Horace is ridiculous. He talks like a medieval knight, he owns a pet pigeon, and he is made of stone. Many younger readers will love how silly he is, and the moments of slapstick (mostly involving pigeon poo) that he delivers. There is a classic quality to Elsom’s farce (there are even flying custard pies in one chapter) and, though Harriet’s first person narrative provides a few rare moments of lucidity, the silliness never lets up.
Though there are mentions of Harriet’s best friends, and Horace’s historical arch enemy makes a brief appearance, the story rarely shifts focus from the two title characters, and potential storylines are somewhat underdeveloped in favour of keeping it simple – and silly.
There are plenty of laughs to be had in this story, and many readers would be enthusiastic to see Horace and Harriet in further episodes. The illustrations are engaging and original, in two-tone emerald and white, and Horace’s Dictionary at the end of the book is an affable way to introduce young whippersnappers to language from days of yore. New characters, particularly villains, would be welcome additions if the improbable companions are to undertake new adventures.