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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
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****My Friend Flicka

by Mary O'Hara

Reviewed May 25, 2002.
J. B. Lippincott Company, 1941.  282 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF OHA).

I hadn’t read this book in more than twenty years, since that’s when my sister Becky got married and took her copy of the book with her.  Before that, I’d read it two or three times, probably starting when I was in elementary school.  Now I’m going to have to look on for the two sequels, Thunderhead, and Green Grass of Wyoming.

I rescued Sembach’s copy from being salvaged.  We’re cleaning out old books that haven’t been checked out much.  Yes, this one is old, but it’s definitely a classic.  Sembach customers, be sure and check it out so that next time we salvage, it won’t be in danger!

This is the classic story of a boy and a horse.  Ken McLaughlin is back home on the Wyoming ranch for the summer.  More than anything in the world, he wants a colt of his own.  Unfortunately, he learns that he didn’t pass fifth grade because he daydreamed when he was supposed to write a paper for the final exam.  His father is not pleased, and Ken’s sure he’ll never get the horse he longs for.

Ken’s mother understands what a horse means to Ken.  She convinces Ken’s father to let him choose a horse.  Then Ken chooses the one filly that his father thinks he shouldn’t, a horse with a mother who’s never been tamed.  This makes the gulf between Ken and his father even wider.  Will he ever be able to train his new horse, or will she show herself to have as little sense as her mother?  Of course, the title gives away what will happen, but the journey making Flicka Ken’s friend is not an easy one.

I think that I liked this book even more than I did when I read it as a kid.  The author tells a good portion of the story from Ken’s mother’s perspective.  This is probably not something the author would get away with nowadays.  When I read it as a child, I found those parts distracting and didn’t really relate to the mother.  Of course, now, as a mother myself, those parts pulled me much further into the book.  I read it now from the perspective of a mother trying to understand her son and build a bridge of understanding between her son and her husband.

I always have enjoyed the descriptions of Ken’s daydreaming.  That’s one part of the book that I have never forgotten.  She beautifully captures the way he can stand in front of a picture and slide into it and forget all about the world outside.  I think any child with imagination will feel sympathy for Ken when he daydreams and time slips away from him and he lets his father down.

There’s a basic enchantment in the idea of a sixth grade boy having the run of a Wyoming ranch, riding horses, and even taming and befriending a wild young filly.  This is a classic that well-deserves a new batch of young (and older) readers.

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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