Monday, October 28, 2019

Book Review: Another Hank Tale (kids, cowdog, ranch, Texas, etc.)

Hank, the Cowdog: The Fling by John Erickson with illustrations by Gerald Holmes (Puffin Books, 2001, 126 pages plus fun pages of activities, $4.99, ages 8-12, grades 2-7)

Head of Ranch Security

We, the staff here at DogEvals, love the first Hank book we read, Hank the Cowdog: It’s a Dog’s Life (#3),

so much that we couldn’t wait to read Hank the Cowdog: The Fling (#38). We found this book to be a bit contrived, however, perhaps because we so dearly love the first one.

Who is Hank?

Hank is the smelly, smart-alecky Head of Ranch Security (“. . . it’s a grueling job – eighteen hours a day, sometimes twenty or even thirty. . . . The work never ends, and sometimes I have to go days, weeks, even months without sleep. . . .I am no ordinary dog. . . .around two A.M. Confident that my ranch would make it through another night, I returned . . . to my office/bedroom beneath the gas tanks.”) - on a ranch in the West Texas panhandle.

The Hank books have been Book-of-the-Month selections and an audio taped title won the 1993 Audie for Outstanding Children’s Series from the Audio Publisher’s Association. Other awards include the Oppenheimer, Wrangler and Lamplighter awards plus Hank now can be read in Japanese, Spanish, Danish and even Persian Farsi.

Who is John Erickson?

Currently there are 73 Hank books - all since 1982! That’s 73 books in 37 years or about two a year. What a prolific storyteller!

After college, author John Erickson, originally from Midland, Texas, worked as a cowboy, farmhand, ranch hand and ranch manager so he knows Hank’s job well. Erickson’s page on Amazon reads like a story in itself (so entertaining we would love to print it in its entirety here!) He wrote four hours a day while working full-time and received only rejection letters for 15 years so, what did he do?

Borrowed money and started his own publishing company, of course!

His sidekick, Gerald Holmes, drew more than a thousand figures for the Hank sries before he passed away this fall.

Hank’s Fling

In The Fling, we once again meet Wallace and Junior Buzzard, the unfriendly buzzards, and Rip and Snort, the unfriendly coyotes, and Hank lives through encounters with them once again: he ‘dodges bulletins’ (bullets)!

The scenario is as follows: Hank mistakenly finds himself trapped in a trailer of steer headed for town many miles away. Unfortunately, this is the same group of cattle that Hank had just teased and tormented, so being stuck in a trailer with them for a long bumpy ride into town is not piece of cake for this Head of Ranch Security. However, “Part of being brave is pretending that you really are – and hoping you’ll never have to prove it.” And so, Hank manages to survive the rickety dangerous ride into town.

Hank’s adventures in town include being captured by Animal Control but managing to escape after which his antics turn into a ‘comedy of arrows’ (errors) as he tries to snaggle some hot dogs sizzling on a grill.

But, Wait! There’s More!

And there’s more at including stuffies of Hank* and his side-kick Drover, that little white stub-tailed dog whose favorite saying is, “Oh, my leg!” (whatever that means). Hank and Drover are famous (infamous?) for their roundabout conversations that can travel from the ballet to the moon and beyond in just a couple of sentences. And plenty of puzzles and games for kids that stump the grown-ups, too (also included in the books).

Now, who wants a map of Hank’s ranch? That’s on the website, too!

*Would you like to put the Head of Ranch Security to work guarding your room, house, car or wherever you need him to be?  This Hank can stand, sit or fight any monster that comes his way and you’ll love having Hank hang around.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Hardy Boys and Dogs

The Hardy Boys (The Short-Wave Mystery/Undercover Brothers – Operation: Survival, by Franklin Dixon (Grosset and Dunlap/Aladdin Paperbacks, 1966 or 1945/2005, 176/148 pages, $7.99 /$4.99)

Dogs are Everywhere!

Dogs appear in books and magazines and movies, as backdrops where you least expect them but, of course, they are so much a part of our lives, why not be in books and magazines and movies, too, if only in the background?

We picked up a couple of Hardy Boys mysteries since we had never read any of them but had read all the Nancy Drew books – and were pleasantly surprised. Plots were very good and they even had dogs! And puppy love (Iola and Carrie).

Ah, the Hardy boys: Joe, the cute one, and Frank, the budding biologist (at least in Operation Survival) (“. . . eye color is determined by three genes, not just two.” Page 8) often alternate chapters. And then there is Chet, their always-hungry sidekick.

The Short-Wave Mystery

Dits and Dah’s and stuffed animals to fight over at an auction that results in a robbery. And sidekick Chet has a new hobby, taxidermy. And then you have a car explosion and a secret code and ‘Leapin’ Lizards!’ a boy named Biff and a boat named Sleuth. And a bear and an aardvark and a fox and a wolf and a bison and even industrial spies. And wonder drugs and polygraph tests and a hunting lodge in Canada and the FBI – whew! But, where’s the dog?

Typically, boys’ books have boy topics, like taxidermy and boating and fishing and short-wave radios and this adventure is no exception.

Undercover Brothers – Operation Survival

Teenagers Joe and Frank go undercover in each book of this upshot series, this being number seven), this time to Camp Wilderness which is a boot camp for juvie boys (and a sister camp for girls and, yes, teen love plays a part). A really physically tough boot camp and if they don’t succeed, it’s off to prison. However, Camp Wilderness recently had a boy die: then same thing happened in its predecessor, Camp Character in Montana. 

Hmmmmmm. Could it have been murder?

And, in preparation for the wilderness, the Hardy boys and their parents have a discussion about black bears, so you know they will play a part later. After the knock-out and a boathouse on fire.

Dreaming of a dog. A golden retriever. With Nancy Drew mentioned in a passing conversation.

But what does genetics have to do with it? Hairy knuckles, attached earlobes (recessive), dimples (dominant). Read it and see.

Clever Plots

Both these books are quite clever, even for adults, but I suspect the more Hardy Boys books you read, the better you will become at guessing ‘who done it.’