Ludo and the Star Horse, by Mary Stewart

There are some books that I have been putting off reading out loud to my children, because I am scared they won't like them and will never try to read them again. It's a delicate balance, because of course one wants to read them good books; just not the really beloved books from one's own childhood. Not quite yet.

One such book that I'm not reading out loud is Ludo and the Star Horse, by Mary Stewart, illustrated by Gino D'Achille (1974, reprinted in 2001). One snowy winter night in Bavaria, around 150 years ago, a young peasant boy named Ludo is left at home by his parents to look after the animals while they go down into the valley. He hears the stable door bang, and running to look, sees Renti, the old work horse, disappearing into the blizzard. Following after, Ludo finds himself falling through the snow into a cave that is the beginning of a magical journey through the signs of the zodiac.

The cave is the home of the Archer, Sagittarius. He tells Ludo that old Renti had deliberately left the stable, to seek the chariot of the sun and become a star horse. Before the sun passes through the 12 Houses of the Zodiac, Renti must catch up with it, or fail. Ludo, keeping faith with his old friend, sets off. Each House has its own guardian, not all of whom are friendly. Sneered at by Capricorn, helped by Aquarius, almost eaten by Pisces, Ludo and Renti press on, until at last they come to the house of the Scorpion. With the deadly tail of the Scorpion hanging over his head, and the Sun's chariot about to depart, Ludo must make a final choice for himself and his beloved horse.

A written description of the plot doesn't do justice the beauty of the book. This is the type of story that will make pictures in your mind that will last forever (as well as being illustrated with very engaging pictures of its own). It is also a book about growing up, and learning to trust yourself. At the book's beginning, Ludo is pretty sure he doesn't amount to much; by the end, he knows his own worth, and the value of having a dream.

A caveat: some people I know don't like this book because of its negative portrayal of their own sign of the zodiac. Gemini (twin bullying thugs), Cancer (murderous), and Pisces (also murderous) come off the worst, so be warned. But even though Capricorn is not entirely admirable, I still love this book!


  1. I love Mary Stewart so will look for this although I am a Cancer so had better read it when I'm in a good mood!

  2. I was bought the audio version (read superbly by Paul Eddington) when I was about six years old. The images of Ludo's mountain home, and of all the "houses" live with me still. The story works on so many levels - even offering a commentary on euthanasia- but mostly I loved it for the dialogue. Favourite lines include: "You may call me... Goat," "What is it? It's been standing there for ages!" and, of course: "They will have told you that I am Death..." That one still makes my skin crawl after thirty years. I just have to decide whether to leave the book in Dirk's room, the tape in his player, or read it to him myself. Somehow, I think Paul Eddington will get the gig!

  3. I had the audio book when I was a child and am desperatly trying to locate another copy now I'm older. If anyone knows where I could get a copy please let me know- it wouldn't be the same if it wasn't read by Paul Eddington!
    Many thanks, Kylie.

  4. Well, I'm looking for the audio version too now! It sounds great.

  5. I understand wanting your kids to love the books you loved as a child. Or even just other people! I know I feel that way about my very favorite books. I'll look for Ludo and the Star Horse; thanks for the suggestion.

  6. I was looking for cover images when I spotted your blog. I dug out some old books from the loft last week to add to LibraryThing, and Ludo was one of them. I read it in two hours solid. I was delighted that it hadn't lost its magic or charm, and I was even more delighted when my eight year old daughter spotted it, and asked me to read it to her. I ended up reading her the first chapter and then she snaffled it for herself. The audio version sounds fabulous. I see Ludo has been republished - the new cover doesn't do it justice - maybe Mr Eddington will make a reappearance too.

  7. I came across this as I also had this audio cassette when I was very young and would love to listen to it!!! Did anyone find it?

  8. Hey guys! Been hunting high and low for an audio recording - anyone have any luck? Thanks x Joe


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