This is not all bad. While the movies are good, they aren’t deep. They each focus on a troubled teenage girl (ironically, since the main character in the novel is a ten-year-old boy) who discovers her true self through her interactions with Flicka. There’s a romantic interest, of course, and a jealous rival (of boy and/or horse), along with plenty of obstacles to overcome to get to the happy ending. They’re wholesome movies – no swearing, drinking, etc., and just right for the crowd of young girls pining for a horse of their very own.
The book, on the other hand, focuses on Ken. Ken daydreams – a lot. So much so that he failed his English exam and therefore fifth grade at his boarding school. When he comes home to his parents’ ranch for the summer, his father is understandably upset and isn’t quite sure how to kick him into gear. Surely an hour’s worth of studying a day should have some effect, right? Mary O’Hara’s description of Ken’s “studying” shows that she knows exactly what being inside the head of a daydreamer is like. And it’s pretty amusing.
But Ken wants a colt more than anything in the world. His father vetoes that idea rather quickly, but his mother believes that this just may be the key to bringing Ken from the world of dreams to the world of responsibility. He is given a week to choose his colt from the herd. He finally chooses Flicka, the very last colt his father wants, since she has a strain of wild mustang in her that is difficult to tame. In fact, Ken is deeply afraid that Flicka will turn out to be loco – so wild that she can’t be broken. As you could guess from the title, this fear turns out to be unfounded. Ken and Flicka take care of each other through life-threatening injuries and illnesses and form an incredibly strong bond.
It’s a sweet, heart-warming story of a little boy growing up and the colt that helped him do so. It took me awhile to get into, and the ending seemed kind of abrupt, but there are two other books in the Flicka series to continue the story of Ken and Flicka. It’s an enjoyable read – and even more so if you don’t expect it to be anything like the movies.