Title: Jubilee: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream
Author: KT Johnston
Major Themes: Horses, Olympics, Dressage, Polio, Lis Hartel, Animal Stories
Synopsis: Lis Hartel was a champion dressage rider before a bout with polio disabled her, but she didn’t let that stop her!
I’m always delighted when I find another good picturebook biography to read to my children. One I came across not long ago was Jubilee, which combines a story about a horse with a story about a woman who overcame physical problems to go far in life. I didn’t realize until after I got the review copy that it was written by the author of Railway Jack, which was another good animal story.
Lis loved riding horses, and she was a dressage champion in her native country of Denmark in the early 1940s. Then, something unexpected happened to the young mother: she contracted polio. The doctor told her she might learn to walk again, but would never ride. She determined to prove him wrong. She worked and worked until she finally had the strength to ride again—but her horse had been injured and could not be ridden. Could she train her young mare Jubilee?
Lis and Jubilee worked together for a long time, and the mare became a beautiful show horse, responding quickly to Lis’s slightest cues. Soon, they were competing, and Lis began dreaming of the Olympics. Eventually, the two competed against the best dressage teams in the world.
I like the pictures in this book. They are beautiful! I really like the pictures of Lis’s family, and the page about how she and her daughter had crawling races as she was learning to use her body again after the polio. I found it interesting to read the author’s note at the end, about how Lis started using her horses to help disabled people. It’s a common concept now—but she pioneered in that field. This is a good book. I read it to my 7-year-old, who loved it, and my 12-year-old perked up his ears and listened in, enjoying it as well.
I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley, and these are my honest thoughts about it.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12