Title: The Case of the Blazing SkyHank the Cowdog #51 - The Case of the Blazing Sky
Author: John R. Erickson
Illustrator: Gerald L. Holmes
Pages: 129
Recommended Ages: 10 & up
Star Rating: ★★★★

Howdy, Hank!

The Story.

It’s summer time here on the ranch. This means, of course, that in addition to all of my other rather impressive duties as Head of Ranch Security (that’s where you applause, folks), I also shoulder the load of Head of Fire Safety. Which isn’t the easiest task, especially when you’ve got dumbos like Slim Chance on the ranch who like to pick the middle of a hot afternoon to… weld a cow chute? You have got to be kidding me…

Heh. I honked him up real good, and before a real cat-as-trophe happened. Speaking of cats, have I mentioned that Pete the Barncat is a real junk bag? Cause he is. Even more than most cats. Yuck.

But the real test of my duties came after I had resigned as Head of Ranch and Fire Safety due to a, er, compromising incident, and struck out into the desert. For it was then that I noticed the fire… headed straight toward the ranch…

Discussion.

I’ve always said that I enjoy reading Hank the Cowdog. He’s a funny, fresh narrator, and his style of humor really sets me off. Although the humor dips here and there in the series, on the whole the books are rip-roaring hilarious.

As the series progresses, however, there is a change. It isn’t so much a change in humor, or even in storyline. It’s more a change in emphasis. In the earlier stories, the whole point of the stories is just how funny and goofy Hank is. But in the later stories, more lessons in character shine through.

Don’t get me wrong – Hank has never and never will be about character lessons. Nuh, uh. But Mr. Erickson does a better job at flushing out what’s already built into the story. For example, when Hank tries to catch and eat one of Sally May’s chickens, he gets caught. He knows that he has disqualified himself from protecting the ranch by turning against those he was meant to protect, so he decides to resign. While leaving he thinks this,

“I’d lost it all . . . over a bunch of brainless chickens! It wasn’t fair. I mean, a guy goes through years and years without ever thinking of chicken dinners, and then one day, for just a few fevered hours, he can’t get it out of his mind and  . . . poof! It’s all gone, all the good decisions, all the courageous actions… years of brave and loyal service go down the sewer, and nobody remembers all the days that he watched plump chickens parading around and he didn’t try to eat them.

It never should have happened, but it did. And you know what else?

It was my own fault.” [pg. 86]

Yep, Hank, that’s exactly how it works. It doesn’t matter how good of a reputation you have, how many wonderful things you’ve done – sin is sin, and sin destroys. One sin is enough to destroy an entire pattern of “good”ness. It’s really a sobering warning isn’t it?

I guess the thing that’s most refreshing about Hank’s style of moralism is, he doesn’t preach what’s right at us while he’s being a perfect example of it. Rather, he fails and we learn from his failing. Which is a good way, as a reader, to learn.

While Slim Chance is welding with his mask on, he turns to the dogs and growls at them. Hank decides that Slim Chance has turned into a robot monster, but soon thereafter changes his position.

Euphemisms ‘gosh’, ‘golly’, ‘darn’, ‘heck’, etc. are used. Also, Hank and Peter dish it out to one another on several occasions.

Conclusion. One of the better Hanks that I’ve read, development wise.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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