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Juvenile Fiction Review    

Cracker's Mule
By Billy Moore
Junebug Books, 2002
Paperback, $12.95 (193 pages)
ISBN: 1-5883-810-56

Crackerís Mule is a sweet coming of age story suitable for young adults as well as their parents.

After an outbreak of polio, eleven year old "Cracker" is sent to his grandparents' farm in Opp, Alabama for the summer. Cracker earned his nickname because he was from Florida and "liked fooling with cattle. In Florida cowboys, or cow hunters as they were called there, were often called 'crackers' from the sounds of he whips they used to move and work cattle."

Cracker loves everything about being on Papa and Bigmother's farm. He enjoys the rhythms of their huge breakfasts, the chores, and most of all, he loves the animals. His heart's desire is a mule. He wants to help Papa with his chores and a work animal of his own is Cracker's rite of passage into manhood.

Learning one of life's lessons the hard way -- Cracker advises his Papa to spend seventy five dollars on a gentle, obedient, and sturdy mule. Only after the sale does the young man learn the vocabulary of all the older farmers realizing he's selected a blind mule.

Like most boys in the community, Cracker settles into the routine of chores, family evenings, and churchgoing. He fishes, teases his cousins, and on occasions, reads books that make no sense to him. He worries about his grandparent's health and the fact they've stopped farming cotton. He wonders how they can make ends meet but doesn't miss the grueling process of bringing in the crop. 

Episodic in structure, Cracker's story recounts memories of a happy childhood spent surrounded by loving adults in a simpler time. 


Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

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