Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A new book by Henry, author of the Newbery-winning King of the Wind (1948) and two Newbery Honor books, including Misty of Chincoteague (1947), invites high hopes. Sadly, this slim novel disappoints from the start. When 10-year-old Molly and her father purchase an aging mare at auction, the animal is a far cry from the sprightly young horse the girl has long coveted. Yet with a little care Lady Sue begins to thrive, and brings much happiness to Molly and her parents. Soon she gives birth to Brown Sunshine, a spirited mule who, in an easily foreseen ending, is crowned king of the pivotal Mule Day Celebration. In addition to its predictable plotting, Henry's story suffers from hackneyed characterization (the relentlessly teasing bad boy ends up, in Molly's view, "looking taller and wiser, and more wonderful to me"); awkward writing ("To spend more time with Brown Sunshine, Molly's classroom work improved sharply"); and a grating overuse of exclamation points ("Molly!... we each have our own animal now! The baby mule with the handsome ears is all yours!"). A generous sampling of Shields's realistic line drawings dresses up the text. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - C. Dennette Michaels
Ten-year-old Molly and her diary begin the tale, and then we 'hear' from other characters such as the animal star, Brown Sunshine. The characters develop predictably, ending with a hint of romance between our heroine and her nemesis male neighbor and schoolmate and, most importantly, horse owner-Freddy Westover. Her promised tenth-birthday gift of a horse turns out to be a "mare more pleasing to her father than Molly." This improves when the mare delivers her unexpected foal+a mule. Major plot incidents telegraph the next event. Molly enters a statewide essay contest with "Mule Day in Columbia, Tennessee," wins, and, of course, Brown Sunshine is chosen as King of the Mule Day Celebration. My eleven-year-old granddaughter was bothered by the lack of a time reference when Molly's father drives a truck, yet Molly's mother delivers her homemade preserves in an animal-drawn cart. Bonnie Shields' brown illustrations and four-color dust jacket and end papers compliment and embellish the story.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5Molly Moore wants nothing more than to own a sleek, fancy show horse, so when her family buys a skinny old mare at a local auction, she's very disappointed. In due time, however, the mare blooms with good health and produces a surprise for Molly's familya baby mule. Brown Sunshine becomes a handsome mule, inspiring Molly to write an award-winning essay on the history of these animals. The story is pleasant and predictable, with the somewhat sentimental dialogue and description typical of this genre. The plot moves quickly enough for readers who need encouragement. Black-and-white drawings appear on most pages and capture the action and spirit of the text. A good addition for libraries with avid Henry fans.Christina Linz, Alachua County Library District, Gainesville, FL
Molly wants a horse of her own, but money is tight in the Moore household, making it unlikely that she'll ever realize her dream. When the sale of an old tractor brings in a windfall, Mr. Moore resolves to buy a present for her tenth birthday. They come away from the weekly horse auction, however, with a skinny, mangy-looking old mare, not the young steed Molly has always envisioned. Back home, Lady Sue is a pleasant surprise; she is not young, but she is a fine, intelligent, well-trained animal. The "weight" Lady Sue puts on turns out to be a foal, and the foal turns out to be a mule, a beautiful, long-haired male with whom Molly falls in love, and whom she proudly names Brown Sunshine of Sawdust Valley. Brown Sunshine proves to be such a quick study that he's chosen to be King Mule at the county's annual Mule Day Celebration.
Vintage Henry (Misty's Twilight, 1992, etc.)a lighthearted version of the old girl-meets-horse story; only this time, the horse is a mule. That fact will send readers to their encyclopedias to find out more about these much- maligned animals. Shields's black-and-white drawings bring warmth to the story.