Cover image for Elska / Catherine Hapka ; illustrated by Ruth Sanderson.
Elska / Catherine Hapka ; illustrated by Ruth Sanderson.
1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, c2009.
Physical Description:
113 p. : ill., photos ; 18 cm.
Around the year 1000, the Icelandic horse named Elska is born and learns about life and her role in the herd, as well as love and friendship, when she rescues the girl to whom she originally belonged. Includes facts about Icelandic horses and Iceland.
Added Author:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
HOR Paperback Junior Animals Fiction
HOR Paperback Junior Animals Fiction
HOR Paperback Junior Animals Fiction

On Order




Author Notes

Catherine Hapka has written more than one hundred books for children and adults, as a ghostwriter for series as well as original titles, including the Romantic Comedies Something Borrowed, The Twelve Date of Christmas, and Love on Cue. She lives in Pennsylvania.

Reviews 1

Horn Book Review

(Primary) For kids who wonder what horses are really thinking, this new series gives it straight from the horse's mouth. Elska, a silver dapple Icelandic horse who lives in Iceland in 1000 BCE, tells her own story from her early summer birth to her separation from her mother to her attachment to human friend Amma and their eventual wrenching separation and dramatic reunion. Young horse devotees will love the horse's-eye view and will enjoy learning details about this unique breed. However, early chapter book readers may be overwhelmed by the plethora of Icelandic words and characters' names (and when Elska expects a foal of her own, inquisitive readers will wonder how that happened). In Bell's Star, author Hart is a little more straightforward and a lot more exciting. Bell's Star is a Morgan colt, born in Civil War-era Vermont. Like all Morgans, he is bred for farm work and hauling, and he longs for a place to run free of fences. When his owner Katie asks him to help carry a runaway slave to Canada, Bell's Star learns about freedom...and what it means to go home. Overly emotional and anthropomorphic for adult readers, this new series is perfect for the intended primary-grade horse-loving audience. Occasional black-and-white illustrations and long fact-filled appendices add much to both stories. [Review covers these titles: Horse Diaries: Elska and Horse Diaries: Bell's Star] From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Iceland, Circa AD 1000 My name is Elska. That is what the people call me, though in the first months of my life I knew nothing of people. 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 surrounded me and made me feel safe. My long legs twitched. They felt new and strange. I moved them, trying to figure out how they worked. Finally I got my two front legs out in front and my back legs under me. I gave a push and staggered to my feet. I swayed back and forth and almost fell. Then I found my balance. I stood on my shaky legs. My brushy tail swished behind me, and my ears twitched at the sounds of my brand-new world. I opened my eyes wide, trying to understand the things I saw. Interesting smells drifted past my nostrils. My dam nudged me again with her nose, almost tipping me over. I realized I was hungry. I searched along her body until I found the right spot. Then I nursed, the warm milk filling my belly. Soon I was full, which made me very sleepy. I allowed my new legs to collapse under me, and was asleep almost before I hit the ground. When I awoke, I stood and nursed again. Energy coursed through my body, and I turned away from my dam. I noticed other creatures nearby-horses like me. Curious, I tried to run to them. But my long legs tangled with each other and I went sprawling face-first on the ground. My dam was amused. Patience, little one, she told me. Soon you will be running like the wind. Wise Silfra was right. Within hours I was running and playing as if I had been doing so forever. The others welcomed me to the herd. I met Bergelmir, the herd stallion and my sire. I also met an older filly known as Leira; her patient old dam, Irpa; a sweet filly the humans would call Tyrta, who was only a few days older than I was; and a playful colt with a colorful pinto coat who would be called Tappi. It was Tappi who first showed me how to tölt. I already knew how to trot and gallop. I could walk, too, though I did it as little as possible-it was too slow when there was so much to do and see! When I first noticed Tappi, he was moving in a different way. His legs flashed beneath him, one-two-threefour, while his head and back stayed straight and proud. I galloped after him, curious. Why do your legs move like that? I wanted to know. He lifted his knees higher, showing off as he tölted around me. All the horses of this land can do it, he told me. It is called a tölt, and it is what makes us special among all the animals. How do you know so much about it? I wanted to know. You aren't much older than me. My mother, Perta, told me, Tappi said. She is the oldest mare in the herd. She knows everything! I watched his legs carefully. Then I tried to make my own move in the same way. After a few tries, I got it. I was tölting! Before long it felt as easy as breathing. My hind legs stretched under my body, one at a time, pushing me forward. My front legs lifted and curled, helping to propel me along. Onetwo- three-four, one-two-three-four, faster and faster. Tölting was fun! A few days after my foaling, the rest of the herd left my birth meadow. I kept pace easily, sometimes walking or trotting and sometimes tölting with Tappi. We forded a fast, cold, shallow river that tumbled down from the mountains in a series of waterfalls. Then we climbed a steep, mossy hill and found ourselves overlooking a green valley. A herd of smaller creatures dotted the slopes of the valley and nibbled at the grass. They were white, gray, black, and brown-almost as many colors as there wer Excerpted from Elska by Catherine Hapka All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.