Title: My Friend Flicka
Author: Mary O’Hara
Major Themes: Horses, Wyoming
Synopsis: When day-dreaming Ken is given a colt of his own, his life begins to transform.
I first read My Friend Flicka a number of years ago, and really enjoyed it. When one of my boys chose it for oral reading practice recently, I was looking forward to enjoying an old friend again. I must say, though, it wasn’t what I remembered. I remembered the high points of the story, but as it turns out, this book is more what I would call a psychological book than a story. It is definitely an adult book rather than a children’s book.
Ten-year-old Ken has just arrived home on the ranch in Wyoming for the summer, and as usual he is in trouble with his father. He failed his grade in boarding school, simply by daydreaming for an hour instead of writing an essay. Within a few days of coming home again, he has torn and lost (although he did find it again) a saddle blanket and stampeded the brood mares. Ken badly wants a colt of his own, as his older brother Howard has, but Mr. McLaughlin believes he needs to prove himself before he gets one. His mother, Nell, on the other hand, tries to persuade her husband that a colt of his own might be just the thing Ken needs to help him grow up and learn to take responsibility. Finally, McLaughlin agrees to try the experiment and offers Ken his pick of the colts.
Immediately, Ken begins studying all the colts on the ranch, trying to decide which one he wants. One morning, he sees a yearling filly, out of the wildest mare on the ranch, and the filly seems to appeal to him for help. He asks for this filly, and names her Flicka, but they can’t capture her. Flicka’s mother kills herself when they catch her, and then Flicka nearly kills herself trying to escape. Will Ken ever have the friend he so desperately wants, and will he ever be able to win his father’s approval?
As I said above, My Friend Flicka is not really a children’s book. It just moves too slowly for most children. For adults, however, it is a very thought-provoking read. It shows the transformation of a dreaming boy into a responsible boy on his way to becoming a man. I really liked the way Ken’s mother interacted with her sons, and helped their father to understand them.
WARNING: Ken’s father uses bad language frequently through the book; I would say there is a word I don’t like on every other page or so.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults