Title: The Case of the Saddle House RobberyHank # 35
Author: John R. Erickson
Illustrator: Gerald L. Holmes
Pages: 125
Reading Level: 8 & up
Star Rating: ★★★

Hank the Cowdog rides – or shuffles – again in the pursuit of justice!

The Story.

Well, of all the insulting, unsavory, base, ridiculous ideas. Hank just can’t believe that not only does J. T. Cluck, that blasted rooster, think he brings up the sun, but so do Rip and Snort, the coyote brothers! It should have been obvious to all and sundry by now that HE, HANK THE COWDOG, barks up the sun every morning. Yep, that’s right.

Or it’s right most mornings. Today, Hank decided to raise the sun a little earlier than usual, but it seems to be almighty sluggish. Maybe if all of them try together at the same time…

We won’t even talk about what just happened. But what is worth mentioning is the brainless bird dog Slim Chance brought home in his pickup truck. Jake (that’s the brainless bird dog’s name) keeps prattling on about Magadaster, Megascardar, some foreign place with treasure on it! But when Hank hears that a saddle thief has been making his rounds in the neighbouring ranches, he begins to wonder if Jake is a part of the heist…

Discussion.

Jake really was my favorite part of this story. He’s sorta the doggy version of that kid who’s always got his head stuck in the clouds. Jake believes that he is part of an important mission to remove treasure from the island of Madagascar and that he and his crew must fight against pirates in order to recover it. Hank catches the fever for a few minutes (he is quickly cured), but Drover is completely engaged by Jake’s “trips” to and from Madagascar. It really is quite funny.

As with The Case of the Car Barkaholic Dog, I found that Mr. Erickson did a better job drawing out the character lessons that were to be found in the story. He didn’t go overboard trying to turn Hank into a model dog (the very idea makes me laugh), but instead he shows the evil effects of succumbing to temptation, the guilt that is felt over that failure, and the ability that we have to overcome those same struggles. Sounds like a great lesson, doesn’t it? It was, and here’s how it was incorporated into the story.

While making his rounds, Hank comes across a man who has backed his trailer up to the ranch saddle shed. Hank instantly – and correctly – concludes that this man must be the saddle thief. So he charges into the shed to defend his master’s property. But once inside, Hank allows himself to be sweet talked by this silver-tongued, chocolate-toting thief. The thief appeals to Hank’s greed and lack of self-control, and Hank succumbs. After the man makes off with the saddles and Hank is thoroughly chastised, he feels terrible about himself. He only wishes there was a way he could set it all right.

But… as things turn out, Hank DOES get the chance! The saddle thief’s vehicle broke down just miles away and Slim Chance, with Hank in tow, stops to help the man. Once Hank identifies the man as the thief, he begins growling and barking. The thief tries to buy off Hank using the same bribery as before, but this time Hank will have none of it – his honor is at stake, and he must prove his loyalty to the ranch! All ends happily as Hank is recognized for his loyal behavior.

One chapter is occupied by a prank that Slim Chance decides to play on Hank. He pulls up in his pickup and when Hank charges at the truck to bark at him, he steps out wearing a Halloween gorilla mask, which Hank decides is a vampire. Thus ensues a mini-discussion about the likely behavior of an enraged vampire and the likelihood that he will eat Hank. Hank soon realizes his error (much to his chagrin), but an illustration is included of Slim with the mask on.

‘Darn’, ‘gee’, ‘gosh’, ‘heck’, ‘dang’, and the like are used off and on. There is some name calling between Hank, Drover, and Pete.

Conclusion. One of the better Hank stories.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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