My Desert Sun

My Desert Sun;

A middle grade novel for ages 8-12+, My Desert Sun is the story of Cayuse, a young, free-spirited mustang who lives in the desert and mountains of the American Southwest. While life in the desert is often peaceful and serene, Cayuse spends many days merely fighting for survival. However, he soon learns that survival among mankind is much more difficult. After his herd is rounded up and separated, Cayuse is determined to find his freedom in the wilderness again. He struggles through each grueling experience; from his days at a rancher’s farm to life as a bucking rodeo bronco, Cayuse’s will is tested at every turn. One unlikely friendship will be his only salvation. My Desert Sun is told from Cayuse’s point of view and touches on various important issues; from the plight of the diminishing herds of the American mustang, to abuse (of animals and humans alike), to the endless fight for freedom, no matter what the cost.

A portion of the proceeds from My Desert Sun benefit Lifesavers Wild Horse Rescue, Inc. and Return to Freedom, two California-based wild horse rescues. Cover art by Karen Elizabeth Stober. (ISBN: 1-4392-3237-7)

Purple Dragonfly badge
Honorable Mention: Middle Grade Fiction

Equus badge
Runner-up: Wild Horse Stories

Story Monsters badge
Story Monsters Approved! Middle Grade Fiction Book

Readers favorite badge

($8) Order from the author for free U. S. shipping & autograph using PayPal (or email for Venmo):


"The only place I have ever felt at home is the desert. The hot, dusty trails of the southwest may seem barren and useless to most, but to me it is complete paradise. I had become accustomed to the sound of the coyote as he would sing himself to sleep. It was second nature that the hot, dry sun would soon set into a cold, windy night. The pure, innocent beauty that surrounded me could never be duplicated. This was possibly the only place left that man had not destroyed. Instead, man chose to destroy our herds.

Ever since I was a foal, I had been filled with stories of the first mustangs that broke free from their powerful masters. A mustang’s greatest, and perhaps only, treasure was his freedom, and he had to protect it at all costs in order to survive. Chickasaw, the old albino stallion who lead our herd, would always say, 'Cayuse, there is no more pathetic site than that of a broken mustang. The fire is gone from his eyes along with the speed of his gait. The only thing that remains is the shell of a once strong and proud horse.'"


"My Desert Sun is the story of Cayuse, a wild mustang on a journey from freedom to human ownership. It is about greed, brutality, and, the all too real destination for many wild horses, the slaughterhouse. It is a poignant story, it is disturbing...yet in the final chapters, there is that small lighted candle; in the darkness, there is the glimmer of light; the hope that, we, as individuals, can make a difference in the world. A must read. Diana Tuorto has a wonderful gift of writing and, for me, I hope she continues on this journey of writing, and continues to be an activist for our wild mustangs. Thank you, Diana, for a wonderful lesson in humanity."

—Judith Carroccio, Middle School Literature Teacher, Rhode Island

"Cayuse is a chestnut mustang. Mustangs are wild horses that live out west. Most significantly, they are free. However, as the reader finds out in My Desert Sun by Diana Tuorto, some humans desire to take away their freedom and come onto the land and rope these wild horses and sell them. This tale is told from the horse’s mouth, as Cayuse narrates the story of how his freedom was stolen and humans tried to domesticate him. Life on the range was idyllic while living in captivity was cruel. Cayuse recounts his various adventures as a ranch horse...and other roles for the entertainment of humans. Will Cayuse forget his life of freedom and fit into living with humans? What will become of Cayuse’s desire for liberty? This book is for animal lovers of any age.

If you grew up eating okra, you would not think okra is a strange food. However, if you have never seen okra before and all of a sudden that is all you have, you will wonder what happened. How would you feel if you grew up where freedom reigned supreme, then are suddenly thrust into a situation where freedom is curtailed? Cayuse learned the hard way what it means to lose one’s freedom. A wild mustang is not meant to be penned up. Mustangs only know the freedom of the wild. Unfortunately, Cayuse is captured by humans and has to endure humiliation and a lack of space. This fascinating story will keep the reader entertained. My Desert Sun by Diana Tuorto, written for middle school-aged children, will hold their interest. They will be impatient to turn the pages and see what happens next."

—Philip Van Heusen for Readers' Favorite

"This beautiful children's book should be required reading for cattle ranchers who rent land from the BLM for a few dollars after happy wild horses are rounded up, then sent off to a nightmare, which usually ends in the kill pen. Who else should read it? Children in rural areas who are taught that abusive rodeos are okay. It would not hurt city children to read the story as well. This is a new American classic for anyone who loves animals, and even more so for those who do not love animals."

—Gloria Picchetti, Chicago, Illinois

"My Desert Sun, by Diana Tuorto, brings the plight of wild mustangs into sharp focus. The story is told by Cayuse who is captured and misused by various owners. He becomes a ranch horse, a bucking bronco, riding stable hack, and is finally sold at auction. However, other horses befriend him and he learns to trust Charley, a Native American boy who is gentle with him. Readers will learn much about kindness-or lack-from this story and will enjoy how Cayuse uses horse sense and determination to never give up."

—Esther M. Leiper, Poet Laureate, White Mountains Region, Jefferson, New Hampshire

"My Desert Sun is the first book written by Diana Tuorto and recently re-released. It is the story of a mustang named Cayuse who roams free in the wild until he is captured along with the rest of the herd. Cayuse faces many hurdles on his journey. This is a beautifully written book that sensitively touches on the subject of horse auctions and horse slaughter. This is by far her best book to date. I highly recommend this book for all horse lovers."

—Melody Wolfe, Castile, New York

"My Desert Sun is the third book I have in my home library written by animal advocate Diana Tuorto. Young readers learn from Cayuse, a small, feisty, and strong-willed wild mustang, what freedom is in the wide desert and mountainous regions of the American Southwest. In that rugged and open world, Cayuse does endure sorrows, but nothing can prepare him for how miserable life can be for confined horses that 'belong' to cruel owners. When his herd family is captured and separated from one another, Chickasaw, the lead stallion, urges him to be patient and to submit to man because it is the only way to survive. Cayuse will take half of Chickasaw’s advice; he will be patient. Readers share Cayuse’s persistent fury as he bucks and struggles against one difficult experience after another. He is bought and sold by people that have little concern for him beyond his dollar value. One boy, Charley, is the only person that shows kindness. Charley’s wise grandmother knows what must be done because she understands Cayuse’s thoughts. Finally, one wonderful afternoon, Charley understands too."

D.B. Pacini, California-based songwriter/vocalist, poet, and author of short stories and two novels, The Loose End of the Rainbow and Emma's Love Letters

"A nicely written story that has with it a metaphor for being true to oneself, staying focused on your goal, and overcoming adversity. Cayuse is a wild mustang living a worry-free life in the desert with the herd. During his young life, he has avoided capture until one fateful day when a cattle rancher, with all his resources, wrestles him into a horse trailer and takes Cayuse to his cattle ranch. Cayuse is tested by his new owner and quickly learns to distrust this rancher. After a poor start in captivity, Cayuse is sold time and time again. Each time he is sold to a new owner, he reflects on the lack of motivation in the horses that have been in stalls and live a sad life in captivity, rarely enjoying the freedom of grazing in the pasture. Cayuse is determined not to fall into this situation and mindset, but his future looks uncertain. Fortunately, during his journey from one owner to another, he meets a beautiful black filly and a ranch hand who befriends him. But, as it turns out the filly is sold and the ranch hand works at a stable that sells Cayuse. These events sadden Cayuse, yet he strives in his own way to keep his spirits high. When reading Cayuse’s story, you realize that you can easily relate to his emotional journey on a personal level. This book is a short, delightful read; a story of hope and motivation."

—Barbara L. Fielder, on behalf of Armchair Interviews

"If there is anyone who can get inside the mind of a horse to give a truly different, but wholly realistic perspective, it must be Diana Tuorto. Writer and activist, she is the author of a collection of extraordinary and deeply honest poems entitled Let the Horses Die, and now she has written a Young Adult tour de force novel with her second book, My Desert Sun. Told from a first person point of view by the independent and freedom-loving Cayuse, the story details the events of this wild horse's life. Taken from his desert home by less-than-honest ranchers whose intent is nothing short of brutal and cruel, Cayuse must learn to use his wits to survive in unfamiliar territory. Most of the humans he encounters in his journey are cold and indifferent towards animals- both in their treatment and their welfare. There are some bright spots though, because fortunately, in both the animal and human world, there are still some who do care. It makes the rest of us care all the more. Emotionally, My Desert Sun is wrenching because every time it seems Cayuse has come to terms with his life-altering experiences, of which there are several, upheaval happens- and in most instances, not for the better, a new obstacle presents itself. Cayuse goes from ranch to rodeo- to a place so terrible, words cannot adequately describe it. No living thing should have to face what Cayuse must face in his story. What this book does do most exceptionally is enlighten its readers about the plight of the wild horses. While reading My Desert Sun, one cannot help but feel empathy and compassion for these beautiful and elegant creatures. We desperately wish for their safety and self-determination as much as they do. We want to see Cayuse and the other horses win. Although this book is fiction, it is obviously based in a truth, and that truth is often quite ugly. As a metaphor, it is stark in its indictment of the world in which we all live. If Ms. Tuorto's mission was to bring attention to these conditions by putting Cayuse and his fellow horses through the horrors they endure in her book, then it will truly have served it purpose, and served it admirably well."

—Randi Clarken is a New Jersey-based poet/author. In 2008, Randi released her first poetry anthology, Mugging for the Camera.

"I just finished a book by Diana Tuorto entitled My Desert Sun. It is written from a wild mustang's point of view. I was doubtful at first because of the first person point of view, but I should always remember to never 'judge a book by its cover.' Any child that has an active imagination and a love of horses will love to read Cayuse's story. I plan on reading this story to such a child, her imagination running wild when she sees Cayuse lose his freedom and being captured to do man's bidding. How will Cayuse's life play out? Buy the book and find out; you may also find yourself reading each page anxiously to learn what happens next to Cayuse."

—Edward Gloria, Jamestown, ND

($8) Order from the author for free U. S. shipping & autograph using PayPal (or email for Venmo):