During the polio scare of the 1950s, a boy's parents send him for the summer from his small-towm Florida home to the refuge of his grandparents' farm in rural Alabama. He settles into country life with Papa and Bigmother. The locals nickname him Cracker, after the term for Florida cowboys. One day he and Papa go to a livestock auction and Papa lets him buy a small mule. The mule turns out to be blind and Cracker must suffer ridicule while caring for the animal he comes to love. Over the summer Cracker teaches the mule to respond to his voice and together they learn to plow. The summer passes with lazy days of fishing in the local creek mixed with frightening episodes involving poisonous snakes. In this idyllic setting, Cracker makes the transition from boy to young man.
This novel is a young adult novel, tailored to middle-grade readers.
"Cracker’s Mule is a warm-hearted, richly textured story of a young boy, Cracker, and his love for a blind mule, a faithful dog, and his devoted, hard-working grandparents. Reminiscent of books like Cold Sassy Tree, the novel vividly recreates a time, a place, and a way of life―the rural south of the 1950’s. It is Cracker’s voice that captivates the reader as he describes his own yearnings to move past childhood to adulthood and observes the grown-ups around him with honesty, tenderness, and humor." ―Marya Smith, author of Across the Creek and Winter Broken
"Cracker’s Mule is not to be hurried through. It is a book for savoring the rich experiences of an eleven-year old boy’s country summer in 1950s Alabama. Cracker’s love for a spunky little red mule that happens to be blind; his loyalty to a rascally bulldog named Ring; his skill at outwitting green trout in the creek and cottonmouth moccasins on the creek bank; and his growing understanding of his place in family and community will appeal to all ages." ―Aileen Kilgore Henderson, author of The Summer of the Bonepile Monster, winner of the Milkweed Prize for Children’s Literature & Alabama Library Association Award, The Monkey Thief, New York Public Library Best Book for Teenagers, and Treasure of Panther Peak, New York Public Library Best Book for Teenagers
"Moore has written an appealing tale of countryside youthful activities reflected by the author’s mature memory ... Cracker’s Mule may be enjoyed by good readers of the protagonist’s age. But as Harry Potter has shown, a well-written work can attract an adult audience. Moore’s book ... will appeal to those who appreciate reading about a time rich in Southern tradition." ―Jay Lamar
"Cracker's Mule warmed my heart and took me back to a earlier time. Good reading!" ―Faye Gibbons, author of Some Glad Morning, Mighty Close to Heaven, and King Shoes on Clown Pockets
"A wonderful look back at the rural south of the 1950s. You will love the narrator, Cracker. You'll even get attached to his mule, Mr. Sam. A warmhearted story of an innocent time." ―Patricia Cunningham DeVoto, author of My Last Days as Roy Rogers and Out of the Night That Covers Me
"Inspired by his own childhood, Billy Moore spins a folksy down-home yarn about a boy's eleventh summer at his grandparents' farm and the cantankerous and loveable characters who challenge and support his emerging maturity. Following a livestock auction, the boy, Cracker, takes home a stone-blind mule, opening this tale of misadventure which includes a bull-headed dog, a duo of ornery mules plus the sightless, “Mr. Sam.” Told with an ear for old-timey repartee and southern wit, Cracker's Mule is a fun read, filled with boyish good humor and true grit." ―author of A Home for Hopper
"[T]he perfect lazy summer book for a lazy summer day." ―Cathy Carmody Lim, Anniston Star
"Cleverly woven throughout this appealing story are some important economic lessons, including the workings of the market for livestock as well as the challenges of managing a farm when drought threatens both the crops and the animals. Cracker's Mule gets high marks all around for its substantive content, lively characters, interesting plot, and good old-fashioned fun." ―Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children