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Codi Mills has always had a love of reading. Growing up in the country, she had a mobile library that came to their family once each month. Her mother would allow Codi gracious amounts of time to browse through each story to make her final selection.

These memories have since translated into something more – authoring her very own children’s book inspired by a red Mule residing on the Mills’ family ranch.

“I began writing in the third grade (short stories, keeping a diary, etc.),” said Codi, “and I’ve never stopped–there’s always something going on in my head!”

As a professional journalist for a regional agriculture publication, she has been able to share stories with numerous people beyond South Dakota’s borders. Then, in 2014, Codi took the leap and published her first book: “Husker the Mule: A Birthday Present”, working with a western illustrator from Faith, SD to bring the book to life.

“She was pretty excited when they came in the mail,” reminisced Codi’s husband, Brian. “I was proud of her. Writing a book was something she’s always wanted to do –something on her bucket list–and she put a lot of work into it.”

As with many children’s books, there is a moral lesson behind the story of Husker the Mule. Carter, a main character in the book, goes with his grandpa to pick out a horse. He learns to not judge on appearances and give everyone a chance – then chooses the mule when he realizes it can do everything a horse can.

“Stories can make you think differently about many things,” said Rhonda Vallery, Codi’s mom, “You can read along in the story about lessons and teach a child without preaching–then talk about it together. Reading is exciting that way.”

In 2016, Codi launched her second book—“Husker the Mule: Does His Chores”. Now, both editions sit on their four-year-old daughter Kimber’s bookshelf.

“As a mom, reading is important. We read every day—always at bedtime, but if it’s nice outside we’ll take books out and read under a tree in the afternoon,” said Codi. “Reading opens up worlds of possibilities. If you can read, you can learn; if you can learn, you can do. And, if you can do–well, then there is nothing to stop you, really.”


By Jenna Carda
Photos by Jesse Brown Nelson