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Libby of High Hopes

Illustrated by Elise Primavera



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About The Book

It takes meeting the horse of her dreams for Libby Thump to finally live up to her potential in this chapter book series from New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Elise Primavera.

Ten-year-old Libby Thump loves two things: her dog Margaret and horses. She dreams about them, draws them all the time, and more than anything she wants to take lessons and learn to ride like a real horsewoman. But when her mother decides to give the lessons to her older sister instead, Libby is beside herself. Libby’s mom says Brittany needs the lessons more, to cure her “boy crazy phase”—and she also wants Libby to be “more girly,” like Brittany. But Libby just wants to be herself.
With charismatic optimism and determination, Libby hopes she can talk her parents into seeing her perspective. And in the meantime, at least she can visit the stables and see her favorite horse, Princess….
This all-new series featuring text and illustrations from Elise Primavera, of Auntie Claus and Louise the Big Cheese acclaim, will appeal to anyone interested in horses—or who knows the value of having a good friend.


Libby of High Hopes

Libby Thump wished for horses. She sat on the floor of her bedroom surrounded by pictures of them. Grays, chestnuts, bays, piebalds, cantering, trotting, whinnying, sleeping horses!

Up on their shelves forgotten dolls in glittery tiaras gazed out. From under the bed peeked dress-up clothes that Libby and her ex–best friend, Brittany, used to play princess in. But Libby hadn’t played princess in a long time. She had been drawing horses.

“Li-i-ibby-y-y-y-y!” her mother called.

“Coming,” she replied.

Libby put down her colored chalks and gave the drawing one last look. The horse galloped under blue skies—a horse so white it almost looked pink. She scratched her nose, then pressed her lips together in disapproval. The horse’s legs were all wrong. She’d have to fix that when she got back.

“Li-i-ibby-y-y-y-y! For the twentieth time—take the dog for a wa-a-a-a-a-a-alk!” her mother called again.

Libby pulled on a jacket and caught her reflection in the mirror. She had brown eyes that were almost black, long dark braids to her waist, and a big pink smudge across her nose. She wiped it off with one sleeve. Out in the hall Margaret the dog wagged her tail in anticipation.

“And don’t let her off the leash!” Libby’s older sister, Laurel, reminded her.

Libby and Margaret headed to the park. As soon as they entered, she unclipped the leash. Imagine, she thought, picking up a stick, being on a leash your entire life. Margaret wagged her tail furiously, ready for a chase, and Libby threw the stick. It was a really good throw—in fact, so good that it was one of the reasons Libby’s life was about to change forever.

Up, up into the trees the stick rose ever higher, landing far out, past the path, off into the woods, and Margaret went merrily after it. This was a problem too because no one in the family had ever been able to get her to come unless they were holding a slab of roast beef or a carton of ice cream.

Libby cupped her hands around her mouth: “Margaret!” She gingerly picked her way through some brush and came to a narrow dirt trail. “Come on, girl,” she called again, hoping that Margaret would actually listen for a change.

Why did I let her off the leash? Libby scolded herself.

She reached the edge of the woods, and thankfully, there on the other side of a five-railed fence, stick proudly in her mouth, was Margaret. Libby climbed the fence, and now she and the dog were in a large open field—but it didn’t take long to see that they were not alone.

A huge horse raised its head and stared at the intruders. Its once-white coat was now caked with dried mud, and its long mane separated into strands as thick as sausages; its yellowed, tangled tail reached almost to the ground. The horse shied and then swung around on its haunches to face them from a few feet back.

Now, Margaret led a fairly sheltered life and she had no idea how much damage a kick from a horse could cause. She let the stick fall from her mouth and ran at the horse with the idea of nipping its ankles, but the horse wheeled again and this time bolted across the field. For a second Margaret was stunned, she couldn’t believe that something this big was actually running away from her, and then she did what she always did when something ran away from her—she chased it.

“Margaret! No!” Libby screamed.

The horse was running so fast that Libby could actually feel the vibration of its hooves in her own legs, and it occurred to her that something really bad could very well happen. She had to put a stop to this.

The horse galloped by with Margaret right behind, and Libby lunged for her.

“Gotcha!” She tackled the dog and quickly located the ring for the leash to clip her back onto it.

But the frightened horse kept going. Libby’s mouth went dry and she held tightly to Margaret. Like a runaway train, the horse was headed straight for the five-rail, very solid fence. If the horse crashed into it and was hurt—or worse—it would be Libby’s fault.

“Stop… please stop!” she cried.

Three strides… two… The horse put its legs out in front of it, chipping into the ground, trying to stop. Libby covered her eyes but then couldn’t help looking, and gasped because an instant later the animal sprang with amazing agility over the huge fence with room to spare. The horse hovered in the air, front legs tucked tightly under, its tail fanned out behind. It landed soundlessly a great distance past the other side of the fence, galloped down the slope, and thundered out of sight.

Of course Libby ran after the horse—she had to—she had to make sure that someone knew it was loose. What if it got out to the road? What if it got lost?

Down the hill with Margaret in tow Libby raced, her long dark braids whipping in the wind. She wished that she’d never gone on this stupid walk, let Margaret off the stupid leash, or thrown the stupid stick.

Libby wished she were home, sitting on the floor surrounded by her pictures of horses, quietly drawing in her room, with the dolls all around, like princesses in their glittery tiaras.

What Libby Thump didn’t know was that there in the field she had just met a princess—one without a tiara.

She also didn’t know that her life was about to change forever.

About The Author

Photograph courtesy of author

Elise Primavera is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Auntie Claus series and the popular Ms. Rapscott’s Girls. She is also the author of the Louise the Big Cheese books and other award-winning titles. She lives in New Jersey, and you can visit her at

About The Illustrator

Photograph courtesy of author

Elise Primavera is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Auntie Claus series and the popular Ms. Rapscott’s Girls. She is also the author of the Louise the Big Cheese books and other award-winning titles. She lives in New Jersey, and you can visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (June 12, 2012)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416955429
  • Grades: 2 - 5
  • Ages: 7 - 10

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Raves and Reviews

"Libby of High Hopes is the sort of book you can’t wait to share with someone else because you loved it so much. With fresh, clear prose, charming illustrations, and an absolutely unforgettable heroine, Elise Primavera perfectly captures that moment in childhood when everything seems possible—and impossible—all at the same time. There is a sweetness and an authenticity about this story that’s rare and immensely refreshing; it reminded me of the best of Beverly Cleary. Libby of High Hopes will keep you nailed to your chair till you turn that final page with a lump in your throat. And don’t be surprised if a lot of young readers suddenly start asking for riding lessons. "

– Diane Stanley, author of The Silver Bowl

"I wish I could take riding lessons at High Hopes Horse Farm with a friend just like Libby Thump!"

– —Marissa Moss, author of the Amelia’s Notebook series

"From page one to the last, Libby of High Hopes is a page turning ride.
Elise Primavera has created a young girl with family and friends so real you want to know them all. The journey through her summer is filled with soul and charm, simply wonderful."

– Petra Mathers, author of Lottie's New Beach Towel and many other books for young readers

It takes a while, but high hopes finally pay off for a horse-loving girl.
When 10-year-old Libby accidentally-on-purpose lets her dog run loose, she discovers a run-down stable next door, complete with a beautiful but somewhat neglected mare named Princess. Predictably enchanted, Libby goes home to beg for riding lessons—less predictably, her older sister gets the lessons instead. Libby comes up with a plan to work for lessons—and her sister uses the idea to work off the cost of riding boots. Undaunted, Libby learns to groom horses and spends time making Princess feel better. Meanwhile she's being forced onto a swim team, her former best friend is throwing an icky "Princess Party" and her sister discovers boys. It's a bit of a mess and not very cohesive, but Libby's natural charm and cheerful persistence carry the day—not to a blue-ribbon happy ending, but to a more satisfying conclusion that celebrates the real bond between horses and riders. Primavera's occasional, gently humorous black-and-white illustrations break up the generously spaced text.
A solid choice for horse lovers ready to move past early chapter books.

– Kirkus Reviews

"Ten-year-old Libby Thump longs to become the best horseback rider in the entire world. However, her path to greatness is not without strife: her teenage sister steals her chance at riding lessons; her mother refuses to accept that her best friend’s daughter, Brittany, is now Libby’s ex-best friend; and she’s forced to continue the swimming lessons that she hates. It seems Libby won’t ever be able to “live up to her potential,” as her fourth-grade teacher says she needs to do. Still, Libby is plucky and persistent, and her infectious zeal manages not only to bring about the realization of her dreams, but also to inspire those around her. She is a lovely heroine, and her tribulations are relatable and realistic. Expressive full-page illustrations appear throughout. The well-written story teaches the gentle lesson that life can be unfair, but persistence and passion ultimately pay off."--School Library Journal

There’s nothing better than horses for ten-year-old Libby Thump, so she’s thrilled to discover that there’s a nearby riding stable that might offer lessons. In a painful irony, Libby’s parents do indeed fork out for lessons—for Libby’s older sister, Laurel. Libby does at least get the privilege of riding an old pony during Laurel’s class, and she hangs around the barn and learns as much as she can, taking a special interest in a retired jumper, Princess, and getting involved in the human drama of the stable’s owners. Primavera captures with easy sympathy the frustration of a kid who’s painfully close to getting what she wants, and the relationship between the sisters is plausible in its mix of envy, antipathy, and admiration; Libby’s gleeful immersion into the world of the stable is also credibly depicted. There’s too much plot going on, however, with Libby’s horsey yearnings, her falling out with an old friend, the stable’s issues, her sister’s lessons, and so on, and only the story of Libby’s yearning really emotionally engages. Young purists will wish for a little more equestrian authenticity, but dreamier youngsters won’t mind that the riding scenario is pretty much a kid-imagined reality rather than a plausible stable. Pen and ink illustrations exude cheerful energy, and chapter headpieces, shaded with hatching, occasionally recall the cartoon ponies of the great Norman Thelwell. Give this to kids looking for more after Haas’ Runaway Radish (BCCB 7/01). DS

--BCCB, July/August 2012


Libby Thump is almost 11 years old and loves horses. She spends a lot of her time in her room with her dog Margaret, which gives her more time to dream about horses and to draw them. She really wishes she could have a horse, or at least learn to ride one.It looks like life is just going to be drawing pictures of horses and not actually getting to ride them. But that all changes when she --- no, it’s actually Margaret --- discovers a nearby, rather run-down horse stable called High Hopes Horse Farm.

LIBBY OF HIGH HOPES would be a fantastic read-aloud in the classroom and would probably be equally enjoyed by girls and boys. It’s a fresh story with some good life lessons and well-developed characters (including the horses)."

Elise Primavera has beautifully captured the quirky and sweet personality of Libby, a delightful little character who struggles with the “potential” problem like any girl her age. There’s hardly any little girl who doesn’t go through her horse-loving phase, but Libby takes hers all the way. She finds out what potential is, but not before making plenty of mistakes while also helping other people in ways she doesn’t understand.

LIBBY OF HIGH HOPES would be a fantastic read-aloud in the classroom and would probably be equally enjoyed by girls and boys. It’s a fresh story with some good life lessons and well-developed characters (including the horses). We hope that Primavera will give us more books about Libby Thump very soon.

Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on June 30, 2012

With her whole heart, 10-year-old Libby longs to ride horses. But when she persuades her parents to visit a

nearby horse farm, they sign up her older sister for riding lessons and ask Libby to wait. Though stricken

by the unfairness of their decision, she knows that money is tight. Libby becomes a regular visitor at the

farm, where she gets to know the owners, the horses, and an elderly man who frequently comes to see his

horse. It’s a year of change for Libby and many of those around her, and change doesn’t come easily. Still,

the hardships along the way make the ending all the sweeter for readers involved in Libby’s story. The

wide-spaced lines of type and vivid black-and-white drawings make this an accessible, attractive choice

for younger chapter-book readers. Primavera offers a nuanced story that acknowledges some of the painful

parts of childhood without letting them diminish Libby’s resilient nature.

– Booklist

Awards and Honors

  • MSTA Reading Circle List

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