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by KT Johnston

Tara, thank you so much for having me on your blog to reveal the cover of my upcoming narrative nonfiction picture book, JUBILEE: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream! (February 1, 2022, from Capstone).

JUBILEE recounts the true story of Danish dressage competitor Lis Hartel, who was determined not to let polio keep her from riding again. She found that an inexperienced horse named Jubilee was just the partner she needed to develop a new way of riding—all the way to the 1952 Olympics!

I ran across Jubilee and Lis’s stirring story when researching my first book, RAILWAY JACK: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon (Capstone, 2020), which Amazon Editors have labeled “Best Nonfiction for Kids”. Jubilee hit all the notes for me: an animal who’d had a remarkable impact on an everyday person’s life, in a way that left ripples in society today. No widely-known celebrities; no heroic animal feats; just a life that any of us could be living.

Olympic dressage was not open to women in Lis’s day, but she didn’t let that deter her from aiming for the stars. I won’t say too much about the story, but here’s an awesome fact: the back of a horse will get you three feet closer to the stars.

Inspired by the horse who’d lifted her up, Lis pioneered the world’s first therapeutic riding center. Also inspired by Jubilee and Lis, riding as therapy was quickly endorsed by the medical field, and within a decade, centers sprang up around the globe. And there I saw the crowning element of their story, and knew I had to tell it: Jubilee’s ripples in society.

And now, I’m excited to reveal to you the cover of JUBILEE: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream!

In this tender illustration, artist Anabella Ortiz captured the partnership between Jubilee and Lis nicely. Lis’s hand is loose on the rein because her hands remained weak throughout her life, though gentle Jubilee didn’t need a firm grip regardless. Lis’s outfit and Jubilee’s braided mane and warm-up blanket indicate they’ve just finished in the ring. You can tell it has gone well by the calm look in Jubilee’s eyes, and the happiness and admiration in Lis’s. One of Jubilee’s ears is forward, alert to Lis, as always. Jubilee’s face is contoured nicely and you can visually feel the velvety softness of her muzzle. The twinkles in the title evoke the stars the pair reached for. …And wrapping the scene in ethereal warmth, “the summer sun beam[s] down like a spotlight on a stage.”

You can see a photo of an actual horseshoe Jubilee wore in the pair’s most famous performance at www.ktjohnston.com/Jubilee!

Any day now, JUBILEE: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream can be preordered through your favorite bookseller and added to your To-Read shelf in Goodreads.

Thanks for showing off your horse and rider, KT!

Blog readers, KT is giving away a copy of her first book, RAILWAY JACK: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon to a lucky commenter.

Leave one comment below. 

A random winner will be selected soon.

Good luck!


KT Johnston writes historical narrative nonfiction about ordinary animals from the dusty past who had an extraordinary impact on a person’s life, and in the process, left a mark on humanity itself. She aims her writing from accelerated younger readers through reluctant older readers, though her stories are for any age because true stories belong to us all. KT earned a degree in biology and conducted wildlife studies before settling into a more stationary corporate career. She and her husband live in Minneapolis and have two grown children. KT hopes to inspire children to be curious about our world and to find greatness in the humblest of its creatures, one true story at a time.

Follow KT on Twitter @KTDidz, Facebook,  and Pinterest @ktjohnstonauthor.

You can see more of Anabella’s work at anabellaortiz.com.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
January 2, 2022

TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 2022

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