Pete the cat is makin’ all sorts of insenuaytions, innsenuashuns, innsenyooashuns, hints that tonight’s a queer night. In fact, he’s said that Halloween is comin’ and that ghosts and goblins will start poppin’ up out of the ground. But Hank and Drover are too busy helping Slim Chance prepare for his petunia, Miss Viola, who is comin’ over for dinner tonight. At least, they thought they were too busy, but there’s no tellin’ a ghost you’re too busy for him…
This when Hank hears a mysterious noise in the middle of the night.
Suddenly, the hair on my bris backled up . . . the hair on my back bristled up, I should say, and a growl came from deep inside my throat. I sprang to the north window, sniffed the curtains, and sneezed. They were very dusty, don’t you see, but after sneezing twice, I barked. [pg. 16]
I love this next quote.
“Drover, I think we’d better check this thing out. Something strange is going on around here.”
“Maybe it would be better if we stayed on the porch.”
“No that’s a bad idea. Do you want to know why?”
“If we stayed on the porch, Drover, we’d be running away from our fears. We’d never learn what it was that caused us to be afraid.”
“Yeah, that’s what I like about it.”
“Where’s your curiosity? Your sense of adventure? Don’t you want to plumb the mysteries of the Great Unknown?”
“I never was much of a plumber.”
“Very well, if you insist on being a scaredy-cat and a chicken-liver, I’ll go by myself. I’ll take all the chances and then I’ll take all the credit, while you go to the porch and hide from every little sound in the night. Is that what you want, Drover? Is that the way you want to conduct your life? You’re old enough now to make your own decisions. The choice is yours.”
“I think I’ll go to the porch.”
“Oh no you won’t. You’re going with me.”
“But I thought . . .”
“The choice is yours unless you make the wrong choice. I can’t allow you to make dumb decisions.” [pgs. 56-58]
As should be obvious from the title, Halloween practices and superstitions are a big theme in this story. From the opening page of the book, Hank and Drover are thinking that they’ve seen ghosts and goblins, and this obsession continues throughout the entire story. The weirdest moment, though, comes when Hank and Dover are locked into the cake house and they see the ghost of John Dunham, an old preacher. Now, when this (pretty creepy!) scene occurred, I thought that it would turn out to be another mistake. But instead, Viola says that she, too has seen this ghost! Her report is never contradicted, and we are left with only our own incredulity to doubt whether they have in fact seen a ghost.
Hank and Drover also see trick-or-treating children dressed in ghost, skeleton, and witch costumes (an illustration is provided), whom Hank mistakes for actual ghosts, skeletons and witches. Hank also thinks that Drover has been killed and his ghost come back to him. This is immediately proven to be untrue.
Slim Chance and his almost-girlfriend, Viola are central characters of the story. He is the fairly typical bozo-who-never-cleans-his-house-and-lives-on-canned-food sorta guy. It’s impossible for Viola to respect him, but I thought she was fairly… charitable to him. Though why she ever agreed to be with him, I’ll never know…
When Hank and Drover get caught up in dog fight, Hank tries to lie his way out of it.
Wallace and Junior sing a song called ‘Buzzard Love’ which is, essentially, a love song about… buzzards.
Wallace is a domineering father, and Junior occasionally gives feebly rebellious resistance to him. When Hank sasses Wallace, Junior finds it amusing.
Hank and Drover call each other names and speak roughly to each other.
‘Gosh’ is used eleven times, ‘heck’ and ‘dadgum’ four times each, ‘darn’ three times, and ‘dang’, ‘Jiminy Christmas’, ‘gee’, and ‘golly’ once each.
Conclusion. Not recommended.
Note: This review is of The Case of the Halloween Ghost, not the entire Hank the Cowdog series.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret