Title: Three Dollar MuleThree Dollar Mule
Author: Clyde Robert Bulla
Illustrator: Paul Lantz
Pages: 94
Reading Level: 7-10
Star Rating: ★★★

Author of Shoeshine Girl.

The Story.

More than anything else, Don wanted to buy Ben Gold, the beautiful thoroughbred from the Bar-B Ranch. Even though he knew Ben Gold was far too expensive for him to buy on his own, he started saving his money in the hopes that one day something would change. And something did change – it just wasn’t the change Don was expecting.

While out walking with his sister, Don came across a man beating a mule. Horrified, Don agreed to buy the mule for three dollars. It wasn’t until he had made the purchase and led the mule home that Don realized what he had done – he could never expect his father to help him buy a thoroughbred after dragging home this half-baked mule! And worse, Father takes an instant disliking to Sinbad, as Don names the mule.

Can Sinbad prove his worth to Don’s father? And will Don himself come to realize that beauty and pedigree isn’t the most important part of an animal?


I found that the relationships were very balanced in this story. It may sound as though it featured relational tension between Don and his father, but it actually didn’t. Don made his purchase heedlessly – he did not stop to think about the effect of his rashness. Father reproves him for his thoughtlessness, then encourages him to think of one good reason why they should keep Sinbad (an entirely reasonable request). Father never tells Don that he cannot keep Sinbad, only encourages him to think realistically about the situation and not be guided simply by his emotions. In the end, Sinbad proves his worth, and father agrees that he should stay.

Jenny encourages Don to try whispering instructions to Sinbad. She says that she heard a story of a man who tried that and who “believed the horse could understand him. He believed so hard that the horse did understand him.” [pg. 44]

When we first meet Sinbad, we are told that a man is hitting him with a stick. Sinbad is responding in kind to the man, lashing out with his hooves and trying to bite him. He calms down once Don and Jenny arrive.

Conclusion. A sweet story.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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