Holland, Isabelle

About the author

Isabelle Holland (1920–2002) wrote widely for both children and adults. She was born in Basel, Switzerland. Her father was a US Foreign Service Officer, but Isabelle did not live in America until 1942. She was educated in England, where at the age of 13, she won a story competition in the magazine Tiger Tim. After school, she studied at Liverpool University until 1942, when World War II forced her to move to Tulane, where she finished her degree. After two years working for the US War Department, she worked in the publishing industry for 25 years, during which time she also wrote. Her first published novel was Cecily (1967), a novel for adults, but she is probably best known for her work for teenagers.

Isabelle Holland wrote her books from a definite moral standpoint; her teenage heroes’ and heroines’ problems were seen as the result of parental expectations and permissive schooling. She herself said:

The lucky children are the ones who are taught to believe, as they go through life, that, whatever their faults may be, they themselves are lovable and estimable human beings. Most parents do not mean to convey a different message, but they often do. And if my books are about the wounds given in that message, they are also about the healing that can take place, given the right adult at the right time.

Her books won awards or were shortlisted: Of Love and Death and Other Journeys was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1976. Two other books, Abbie’s God Book (1982) and God, Mrs. Muskrat and Aunt Dot (1983) won the Helen Keating Ott Award, for “outstanding contributions to children’s literature that promotes high moral and ethical values.”

Finding the books
All the books are easy to find in the USA. Perdita was published by Severn House in the UK, where it can be tricky to source.

Links and sources
Terri A. Wear: Horse Stories, an Annotated Bibliography, Scarecrow Press, 1987
National Library of Congress
Isabelle Holland’s papers in the de Grummond collection
Isabelle Holland on her books (Bookrags)
Obituary, New York Times, March 9, 2002

Bibliography (horse books only)

A Horse Named Peaceable

Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, New York, 1982, 157 pp

A review on Pony Book Chronicles

Jessamy has run away, and she teams up with another runaway to try and find her grey horse Peaceable. The livery stables where he was boarded has sold him after a fire and an unpaid livery bill.


Little Brown, Boston, 1983, 240 pp (left)
Fawcett, New York, 1984, pb
Severn House, London, 1987, 240 pp (right)
Magna, Yorkshire, England, 1989, Large Print edition.

The 17-year-old heroine of the book has amnesia. She gets a job at a stables,
and discovers she can ride. All is not well though, and she is afraid of something
she cannot put her finger on.

Toby the Splendid

Walker, New York, 1987, 147 pp.

Janet has gone against her mother’s wishes; she has saved up all the money she earned from babysitting, and has bought a horse with it. Although she works to earn her horse’s keep, that is as much as she can manage. She can’t afford riding lessons too.

The Easter Donkey

Golden Books, New York, 1989, 41 pp, illus Judith Cheng

Seth has a donkey, Barak. Sophia tells them to go and get palm branches, but Barak who is lame as well as being young and stubborn, carries on eating hay.