Thursday, February 11, 2010

Horse Diaries: Elska (2009)

The snow has stopped, but I'm still preoccupied with it since a) it's everywhere and b) I keep having to move it. So, a book set in Iceland, about that nation's native breed.

Horse Diaries: Elska

Catherine Hapka, il. Ruth Sanderson

2009, Random House

I was foaled in early summer, in a meadow dotted with flowers. My first memory was the feeling of the warm sun on my back. I did not know it then, but in summer in Iceland, the sun shines for more than twenty hours each day. My dam, Silfra, was on her feet within moments of my birth. She nudged at me with her soft muzzle. The scent of her surounded me and made me feel safe.

In Iceland in the year 1000, a grey foal is born. Her first steps soon move into the unique gait of her kind, the tolt, which she continues as her herd moves through its summer grazing. In the autumn, their human owners appear, and young Elska (whose name appears to translate to 'love') quickly becomes the favorite of the youngest daughter of the clan, Amma. When Elska is around 4, she's trained to be ridden and enjoys a happy season with Amma. But the beautiful and fast young mare attracts the attention of a clan chief, and Amma's father agrees to gift Elska to him as thanks for help in a land dispute. Elska's new owners are kind, but the horse isn't content.

But by the time the long, dim twilight was half over, I was growing restless. I thought of my familiar herd and wanted to be with them. I wanted to see Amma as well. I missed the musical sound of her voice and the way she always found the itchiest spots on my crest and withers.

How horse and girl are reunited makes for a nice, low-key story, and the tone throught is reminiscent of Black Beauty. Appropriately, a quote from the classic starts the book;

Oh! if people knew what a comfort to horses a light hand is...

A higher-quality series book, but not especially memorable. Lovely drawings throughout enhance the sometimes pedestrian writing. The setting makes for an interesting background, and it's very instructive about the breed. I never knew Icelandic Horses came in so many colors, for one thing.


Silfra - mare

Elska - silver dapple/grey filly

Tappi - pinto colt

Perta - mare

Haddingur - stallion

Hamur - roan colt

Leira - cremello filly

Tyrta - palomino filly

Irpa - mare


Other Books in Series

Bell's Star by Alison Hart, il. Ruth Sanderson (Morgan in 1850's Vermont)

Koda by Patricia Hermes, il. Ruth Sanderson (Quarter Horse in 1846 Missouri)

Maestro Petra by Jane Kendall, il. Ruth Sanderson (Lipizzanner in 1938 Austria)

Yet to be published (Oct. 26, 2010)

Golden Sun by Whitney Sanderson, il. Ruth Sanderson (Appaloosa, 1790 Oregon)

Other books by Author

Hapka appears to be a prolific author who's written many beginner reader books, often linked to movies such as National Treasure and The Dark Knight. She's also written some YA chick lit. Other horse-related writing include an I Can Read! series called Pony Scouts, books based on the horsey TV series Wildfire, and a novelization of the film Flicka.

Pony Scouts

Pony Crazy

Really Riding



Track Record

Racing Away

Riding Lessons


Random House Horse Diaries
Horse Diaries - an artist's journey (Ruth Sanderson blog)

Review of Horse Diaries: Elska at Blogcritics Books

Extremely helpful illustration of where Iceland is on the planet at Sunfilm Souvenirs

Random selection of Icelandic Horse souvenirs from Sunfilm

International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations

Iceland's national registry of the Icelandic Horse

United States Icelandic Horse Congress

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