After rereading The Black Stallion a few weeks ago (read my review), I had to revisit my second favorite book by Mr. Farley. This is the first of a companion series, one I put off reading as a child because after cruising through a dozen books featuring the Black, my loyalties were firmly entrenched. I figured I could never come to feel about Flame as I did his black counterpart. I figured wrong.
Steve Duncan is a young man who visits his older friend, Pitch, in the Caribbean where they camp on an island with wild horses. The island is solid rock with only a small, sandy plain that barely grows enough grass to sustain life. Pitch is certain the Spanish conquistadors once inhabited the island. Steve is all about the horses.
Then one night a magnificent stallion appears on a cliff high overhead. It’s a beautiful animal, nothing like the scraggly horses that live on the plain, and the friends realize there must be more to the interior of the island than just rock. They eventually find a lost world full of Spanish treasures, including a valley full of the purest breed of horses Steve has ever seen. Then Steve discovers Flame, the wild stallion of his dreams
This, like The Black Stallion, is the wonderful story of the relationship that grows up between a boy and a wild horse. It’s not particularly beautiful, but it touches on the stuff dreams are made of: love and wonder. What kid wouldn’t want to discover a world left undisturbed for centuries, especially if the only ways in are through a maze of tunnels or a hidden canal? Who didn’t grow up with dreams of taming and loving a special animal loyal to no one else? Even after a months-long relationship with the Black, I fell in love with Flame. I wished I could travel to Azul Island and run in the tall blue grass with the wild band. And I did, time and again. My last trip was just this week; I brought along my two boys who loved Flame as much as I always have.
Like The Black Stallion, I give The Island Stallion the highest recommendation simply on its ability to cultivate dreams. In my opinion, they are the two best of Walter Farley’s many works. (A note of caution: the book does contain two fights to the death between horses.) Fifth grade reading level, first grade listening level.
The Island Stallion, by Walter Farley, 1948, Book Review