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Book Review: Horse Diaries: Elska by Catherine Hapka, Ruth Sanderson (Illustrator)

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Elska is the first in a new series titled Horse Diaries. These books are just that – diaries from the perspective of horses, a different horse in each book. I found this concept to be very unique and wonderful. Elska begins as a young foal, newly born into the world in Iceland, circa AD 1000. All is well for Elska, as she discovers her new world, in the countryside, roaming with her mother and the other horses.

It is not long, however, until changes occur and Elska finds herself, along with the other horses, gathered to a farmyard for the winter, which is about to set in. Elska settles in happily at her new home, at peace with a loving and sweet little human girl named Amma. Amma is kind and attentive, she and Elska seem a kindred spirit, meant to grow and learn together. Then, it is when a powerful neighbor takes notice of young Elska, life become a confusing and upsetting upheaval.

Elska is sent to live at the new farmyard, with new horses and new humans. All are kind to her, however she desperately misses Amma and does not understand why this has happened. Little does Elaska know that one day soon she will become a hero for doing what comes naturally and her reward will be one that leaves her feeling happy and fulfilled.

Horse Diaries: Elska is geared toward ages 9-12, though I feel that that age range could easily be expanded both ways. Younger girls who love horses will definitely find themselves engrossed within the book’s pages, as well as older horse lovers. The uniqueness of the point of view gives the reader a completely new perspective and is highly delightful. I loved seeing life through a horse’s eyes and knowing what she was feeling and thinking, while viewing humans as a new and not completely understood source.

The story and writing is wonderful and fun, the illustrations beyond beautiful. The writing talent of Catherine Hapka and illustrating talent of Ruth Sanderson is a truly winning combination and brings this loving story of Elska to life. I instantly fell in love with the cover of the book, a design resembling that of a leather diary, complete with lock, all centering around a portrait of Elska herself, in all of her glorious beauty.

Also worth mentioning is that, at the end of the story, there is an excellent section dedicated to the life and facts of Icelandic horses as well as Iceland. This is a great learning follow-up and gives the reader memorable and interesting background information such as Icelandic horses are a gaited breed, meaning in addition to the typical gaits that horses perform, Icelandics can also perform a tolt and the flying pace. Also, Icelandics are the only breed of horses in Iceland today. Bringing any horse into the country is forbidden by law and once a horse is taken out of the country, it is not allowed back in.

In closing, it is mentioned that Icelandic horses are given Icelandic names, no matter the place of their breeding. This is an age old tradition still carried out. Elska is a commonly used Icelandic name used for mares and means “friendly” or “playful” – two things that definitely describe Elska within this story, perfectly.

The second in the Horse Diaries series is Bell’s Star; the first chapter is included at the end of Elska, leaving the reader eagerly anticipating its arrival. This series promises to quickly become a favorite for every girl who either desires or has desired to be surrounded by horses. This is a true horse lover’s dream and will be cherished for years to come.

*overall rating 4.5/5

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About April Pohren

  • http://www.eloquentbooks.com/PurpleButterflies.html Purple Butterflies

    This sound like a book my Daughter would love.

  • jack yo

    i dont care

  • LucroySista

    it helps! i was making a PowerPoint about books my daughters could read, to make it seem like it is more fun that way! Sara and Randi will love this series!