Customer Reviews: My Friend Flicka
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on July 21, 2002
Long relegated to the ranks of children's books, My Friend Flicka is indeed a wonderful story for a thoughtful child. I first read it at the age of 9, and have read it many, many more times throughout my life.
As a 9-year-old, I loved the story of the sensitive boy, Ken, and his filly Flicka, who has questionable bloodlines and does not meet with the approval of Ken's stern rancher father, Rob McLaughlin. Boy and horse must surmount that initial disapproval and all sorts of other challenges as they struggle and grow together.
But on another level entirely, My Friend Flicka is the story of a marriage that is so real, so adult, and so compelling, that any adult can appreciate the story. In a nutshell: Rob McLaughlin, a former captain in the Army (this was written shortly after World War II), is struggling to make a success of his Goose Bar Ranch, where he raises thoroughbreds in the rugged Wyoming countryside. His wife, Nell, is a blueblood from the East whose apparent fragility masks an inner strength that is Rob's lifeline. A delicate-looking beauty, Nell nevertheless can deliver foals at midnight, weather all the storms that ranching throws her way, and still feed a hungry crew of workers three times a day.
Rob and Nell's marriage is strong and passionate. But their one bone of contention is their second son, Ken, a daydreamer who simply does not fit the mold of Rob's ideal son. Older boy Howard is the perfect McLaughlin: athletic, strong, personable, talented, outgoing. Ken is slight, small, quiet, sickly, and above all, a creative dreamer. But when he sets his sights on a horse of which his father strongly disapproves, Nell fiercely backs his choice. And Ken begins to grow as a man--in his own way and in his own speed. And Rob learns some strong lessons about being a man, a father, and a husband.
If you have never read this book, or if it lives on your child's bookshelves, give yourself a treat. It's much more than you think.
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on December 10, 2000
(Note: This review gives away some elements of the story. I do not believe that it will spoil it for anybody, but am warning you as you are the best judge of that.)
Many of the reviewers below have said that this is a must read for anybody who loves horses. Goodness knows they're right, but I'm just writing (as one who is only a very mild fan of horses) to say that it is just as much of a must read for anybody who likes people.
This book is about a sensitive 10 year old boy who is misunderstood by his authoritarian, ex-military father, and struggles to live up to the high standard set by his older brother. His continued failures drive him further and further into the dream world that is their cause. He dreams of having a horse of his own to be his friend (his father owns a horse ranch).
The plot really gets interesting when his mother convinces his father to give him a horse, which she believes will teach him responsibility, and -- to his father's dismay -- he chooses one of the wildest, most unmanageable fillies on the ranch. The remainder of the book unfolds what the boy (as well as his father) learns about life, and his developing relationships with both his father and his horse. I will go no farther in revealing the plot.
This book will be appreciated by horse lovers for obvious reasons. I hope I have been able to show a little of why it will also be appreciated by anyone who enjoys good literature with a good plot, or is a student of human nature or of good writing.
Finally, a word on style. While O'Hara's style is not unique to the extent that Barrie's, Tarkington's, or even Joyce's is, it is highly enjoyable, perfectly fitted to the content, and well above average. The book is the kind that is genuinely fun to read, one of those books that you can't put down, and the reading as well as the plot of which will provide a pleasant memory.
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on August 26, 2005
On the Goose Bar Ranch in Wyoming, between the World Wars, former Army captain Rob McLaughlin and his Eastern blue-blood wife, Nell, are raising two sons and an ever-growing herd of thoroughbred horses. Rob, a stern but loving father, doesn't know what to do with younger son Ken. The boy daydreams constantly, and for that reason just failed to be promoted at his boarding school. Why should Rob give small Ken a colt of his own, as he already has older son Howard, when Ken can't do anything that demonstrates he's responsible enough to be trusted? Yet a colt is what Ken wants more than anything else in the world. Until he finds out what happens to male horses when they're two years old - after which he decides he'd rather have a filly.

Not just any filly, though. Flicka, born to the half-wild mare called Rocket. Flicka is faster already than her sire, the ranch's stud horse Banner, and Ken believes he'll be able to train Rocket's "bad blood" out of the yearling. Rob thinks his son is (to use his word for it) dumb, for a lot of reasons that now include choosing this filly that Rob is sure will turn out to be just as "loco" as her dam. Untrainable, and downright dangerous to those who try to handle her.

This novel is a perfect example of the type of children's classic that, when read by adults, proves to have depths and layers its target audience never perceives. I know I read it as a young girl, and enjoyed it as both a good "horse story" and coming of age tale. But in reading it again now, I was amazed by the detailed and multi-faceted characters of Rob and Nell. Their love story is one of the most interesting I've read, because the author not only captures the tensions between these two very different people - she also captures the way that raising their children, who are (for better or worse!) a blending of those differences, affects their relationship. No wonder this book is still in print more than 60 years after it was first published. Simply wonderful!
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on May 5, 2005
Rob McClaughlin runs his horse ranch with military precision, where he is respected by both the men and his horses. In the late 30's Ranching is difficult in the wilds near Laramie, due to the extreme unpredictability of nature--wild beasts as well as weather. But Rob just can't understand or appreciate his younger son, 11-year-old Ken, the family day- dreamer. Every time the boy turns around he costs his father money and horse ranching is not a lucrative business. Pressed by increasing debt, Rob loses patience with his younger son, but is reluctantly persuaded by his wife, Nell, to give the boy a colt, so he can start learning responsibility. Certainly Not as a reward for academic and ranching failures, but as incentive for the boy to adapt to a practical lifestyle.

Given his choice of any colt on the place, but repelled by the barbaric custom of gelding, Ken decides on a filly, and not just any filly either. He Would pick the offspring of Rocket, the loco mare--arousing his father's disgust and even anger. Finally realizing the futility of keeping any of the Albino's erratic offspring, Rob ships them all off the ranch, adamant to include Flicka (whose names means "Little Girl" in Swedish) in the equine purge. Tortured by fears that Flicka may prove loco like her dam--despite her coloring from her sire, Banner, Ken is eaten up with fear over her eventual loss, for people shoot loco horses. He quickly came to identify with the filly, to see himself,like her, as not quite fitting in on the ranch, which only makes him love her all her the more. Even Nell, the wise Missus of the ranch, realizes that Ken's psyche is somehow linked to that of the hotly debated little filly.

Although nominally a children's classic, this book devotes over 100 pages to setting up the exposition and exploring the father-son conflict before Boy finally meets Horse. Ken is aware of Flicka long before she comes to know him, but she has been a wild yearling under a wild mother for so long; perhaps she will ultimately prove loco like Rocket. The story is atypical--more like an adult novel with a child protagonist. Readers gain insight into both of Ken's parents, who are called by their first names; we learn their thoughts and dreams, as we inevitably sympathize with the boy who years to impress his father and to have a colt of his own. The drama of the final chapters is very intense, for Rob does not permit animals which have no future to suffer long. Can a boy's Love alone save the dying pony he adores? Can a spurned filly turn the tide in a boy's own protracted illness? Only wise Nell seems to understand how their lives are intertwined, that each can help save the other. But will this maternal insight come too late for Rob to countermand the order for Gus to shoot Flicka? An interesting and dramatic read for kids of all ages.
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on February 3, 2012
These books are true Westerns. They are not shoot-em-ups, which I also enjoy, but descriptions of real family life. Mary Ohara is a wonderful author. She understands women, children, men, and horses. Her characters are real; as they show the same hidden strengths and weaknesses that we all have. For a story that takes place in the early 20th century, Ken's mom sure seems liberated. The description of a loving family are inspirational. No wonder My Friend Flicka is a classic. Thunderhead goes on from there. The story is in no way like the TV series, except it's about a boy and a horse.
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on November 21, 1996
Upon reading the first few chapters of this book, I thought it would be much like Steinbeck's The Red Pony, and was tempted to put it down. A person can only take so many horse - boy books after all. Once I had completed the book I was extremely glad that I had continued reading it. It was only slightly like The Red Pony. The book was emotional and caring. It captured young Ken McLaughlin's attitude toward life. Ken, a boy with his head often in the clouds, truly tried to please his rather domineering, yet loving father. The only thing that Ken wanted was a colt of his own. When he got "his Flicka", he loved her from the start. He matured as quickly as he could, so as to please his father. Ken also had to take care of his colt, which took away much of the time he would otherwise spend daydreaming. The adventures Ken has with Flicka are ones to be remembered. This is an emotional book, that will keep you either at the edge of your seat, or sprawled crying on the bed. Bring along a box of tissues if you're that type. You'll be sure to read it more than once
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on February 15, 2002
I have to admit, when I first saw this book, I saw a big thick book. But then I read it , and now it is my favorite book! I loved how they gave such a description that you felt like you were there. I could realy relate to Ken, and how he stuck to what he did and was nervous about it. I liked how the love of Flicka stayed with Ken even when she was in pain. This is such a good book I recomend it to anyone!!!!
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on May 29, 2011
Years ago I had been given these same pare of book from my mom. I've read them several times and just love them. Then due to life I lost them and here in my old age after mom passed away was wanting them for the book case. So I searched Amazon and low and behold there they were, the same color and all. Thanks so much.
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on August 14, 1999
i was 12 when i read my friend flicka and as i love horses i loved the book.i then went on and read my friend flicka 2,thunderhead 1,2 &3 and the green grass of wyoming parts 1,2&3. after reading the whole series Ken grows up from being a mindless daydreamer to a young man with flicka by his side all the excellent novel!!!well done!
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on March 19, 2000
This is my favorite book ever! I carry it around with me everywhere! This book will touch your heart and soul, and you'll never forget it! Mary O'Hara's style of writing makes you grow to love Flicka and Ken! Flicka, a wild filly who is thought to be loco because all of her descendants are, is the only filly Ken, a young day dreamer, will have. His father is outraged when Ken will have no other! When they bring Flicka in, she is so afraid, she tries to jump a barbed wire fence that is obviously too high! The McLaughlin's can't afford anything but barbed wire fencing, and Flicka is torn up. Because she is so hurt, Ken can get close to her, and soon becomes her whole world. When hail comes, he threw himself over her head to protect her, and reads to her for hours, sometimes he'll just gaze at her. If you like horses, this book will make you love horses! A must read for ANYBODY who is the least bit interested in horses!
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