Meet Felicity

Published in 1991; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Dan Andreasen, Luann Roberts, and Keith Skeen


Felicity Merriman has a generally happy life in colonial Virginia: she enjoys spending time in her father's store (although as she grows older she's being encouraged to let his workers do that and go be more lady-like), her mother keeps a comfortable home, and she likes being with her little siblings, her sister Nan and her brother William. Most of all, she loves horses. When she hears that the town drunk/tanner Mr. Nye has a new horse, she can't wait to go see it. Rumor has it that Mr. Nye works his animals to death, so Felicity must move quickly. She gets her chance when she accompanies her father's apprentice, Ben, to make a delivery to Mr. Nye. The horse is a beautiful chestnut mare, but Mr. Nye mistreats her horribly, making her wild and vicious. Felicity is sure she could convince the horse to be gentle...if only she could get close enough. She's especially motivated when she hears Mr. Nye yelling to the horse that he'll give her to anyone who can ride her.

For the next few weeks, Felicity sneaks out in the wee hours of the morning to visit the horse, which she named Penny, for the copper color of her coat and for independence. Gradually the horse come to trust her, and finally Penny lets Felicity ride her. They start slow, but gradually the two work together perfectly. It's about this time that Ben realizes where his missing breeches have gone: Felicity has been using them to ride Penny. Ben agrees to let her keep them for a little bit longer, but soon she'll have to reveal what she's doing. She brushes and curries Penny's coat until it shines, and rides the horse to her father's store. She tries to explain to her stunned parents that the horse is hers now, since she can ride it. When Mr. Nye comes raging to the scene, her father has to explain that it was an idle promise; Felicity does not own the horse. Worse, Mr. Nye says that because of Felicity's duplicity, he won't even consider selling the horse to the Merrimans.

Felicity and Ben know that Mr. Nye will kill the horse with abuse and neglect. But they can't find a way to buy it from him; he won't sell Penny now. Felicity borrows Ben's breeches one last time, and rides Penny into the woods, where she was found in the first place, and sets her free. It's better for her to be a stray horse than live a short, cruel life with the eventuality of a painful death.

Looking Back

The historical section talks a lot about the fashions and pastimes of the wealthy in Felicity's day. With her father being a respected shopkeeper, Felicity would have been upper-class. It contrasts Felicity's experiences with those of the lower classes; like the back-breaking labor endured by apprentices like Ben in the hopes of a a better life one day...and that endured by people like Marcus, a slave who works at the Merriman store.


This book is dedicated to Kathleen and Granger Tripp, the author's parents.

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