Horse is the way ""the eight hands"" (Phipson's name for her four Australian school children) hear the name Horst, and everyone of those helping hands is needed to assist the shy, inarticulate German immigrant in turning his rundown cabin, formerly the haunt of the local bikies, into a successful antique store. Phipson reminds us, rather baldly at times, that the children's view of Horst is subjective, and even as he changes in their eyes from a prowling madman to a helpless near baby to a solid friend, he remains the children's spiritual ward and a never failing source of entertainment. The children help Horse fix up his rundown house, unpack his ""coffers"" of treasured antiques, discover a cache of antique bottles and try to manufacture some artificially ""old"" ones when the supply runs out, and even repel the menacing bikies -- who turn out, upon capture, to be an unimpressive quintet of local do-nothings (and a weak spot in the plot since the likelihood of their identity remaining a mystery so long is slim). At times Horse's bovine passivity and the children's protectiveness can be annoyingly condescending, but their partnership does generate a sustained and purposeful intensity -- outside of fantasy and orphanhood, children their age rarely have so much opportunity to use their initiative. Old fashioned, but satisfying.