My Friend Flicka is family-friendly reading

frontpiece from "My Friend Flicka"

Everyone who has heard—or perhaps wailed—“if only I had a horse (or kitten or dog) of my own” will recognize the premise of Mary O’Hara’s novel My Friend Flicka.

Ken McLaughlin, a dreamy kid, the despair of his ex-military father and exemplary older brother, has failed fifth grade.

Ken insists that he’d be different if he had a colt of his own to raise. His mother pleads Ken’s case and Rob McLaughlin relents. When Ken chooses a colt from a line of horses his father regards as untamable, he ignites conflict within the household.

Often thought of as a horse story or a children’s story, My Friend Flicka really is not either. Horses are the McLaughlin business and passion; they become the canvas on which the family’s portrait is painted. The real focus of the novel is the family. The novel is as suitable for adults as it is for underachieving middle-school kids or for horse-crazy teens.

To achieve the happy ending that 1940’s young adult novels required, O’Hara resorts to a hackneyed plot contrivance, but she’s masterful at creating vivid, believable personalities.

The novel beats any of the film versions of the story. Look for it at your library or buy a copy at your local bookstore to give as a Christmas gift.

My Friend Flicka
By Mary O’Hara
J. B. Lippincott, 1941
353 pages

© 2012 Linda Gorton Aragoni