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Elska: Horse Diaries #1    by Catherine Hapka & Ruth Sanderson order for
by Catherine Hapka
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2009 (2009)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Elska - by Catherine Hapka, illustrated by Ruth Sanderson - is the first episode in a horsy new chapter book series. Each title will center on a particular breed of horses in a different era, with an appendix of photos and details on that breed. These tales are told from the equine perspective.

Elska is an Icelandic filly who lives around 1000 AD and was 'foaled in early summer, in a meadow dotted with flowers.' She gets to know the other members of the herd and befriends Tyrta (a sweet filly) and Tappi (a playful colt). They share their summer grazing lands with sheep, and move often.

Then humans come, including a girl, kind Amma - who admires 'the pretty silver dapple filly' and names her Elska - to bring the herd to their farmyard for the cold season. Their winter coats grow in and they huddle together for warmth. The seasons and years pass. Amma and Elska both grow taller, and Amma trains Elska and rides her often.

Amma cries when Elska is given as a gift to a neighboring chieftain, Alfvaldr, whose son Magni rides her. But Elska wants Amma and runs away, causing trouble between the neighbors before she is returned. Later, at the rettir, Amma's love for Elska gets her into trouble again, but the filly rescues her - and Amma wins her heart's desire.

Elska is a delightful tale set in a fascinating place and time in history. I enjoyed the appendix's information on the Icelandic breed almost as much as the story. The book finishes on a preview of Horse Diaries #2: Bell's Star, set in 1850s Vermont.

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