Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hank the Cowdog

Earlier today I had an email from a woman, asking if I'd read the series, Hank the Cowdog. I have not, so checked into it a little.... Here's what I found:

Hank is a ranch dog in charge of security on the ranch. From

Coyotes are the bad guys: Rip, Snort, and -- most feared of all -- Scraunch. They like the freedom of roaming the canyons and forests. Coyotes are an ever present danger to the ranch; and yet, for Hank, there's an irresistible fascination with their devil-may-care lifestyle. In fact, one day, Hank decided to see how life was on the other side of the septic tank:

"About a week after I joined the tribe, I made friends with two brothers named Rip and Snort. They were what you'd call typical good-old-boy coyotes: filthy, smelled awful, not real smart, loved to fight and have a good time, and had no more ambition than a couple of fence posts. If Rip and Snort took a shine to you, you had two of the best friends in the world. If they didn't happen to like your looks or your attitude, you were in a world of trouble. I got along with them."

From Wikipedia and elsewhere, I read that the characters in the series include...

Missy Coyote, a coyote princess. Hank meets her in the first book in the series and has a crush on her. Her name is Girl-Who-Drink-Blood.

Chief Gut, Missy's father. His full name is "Many-Rabbit-Gut-Eat-In-Full-Moon."

Scraunch the Terrible, Missy's brother.

In one of the books, Rip and Snort sing the Coyote Sacred Hymn, "Me Just a Worthless Coyote"

In MURDER IN THE MIDDLE PASTURE, Hank pursues "a gang of wild dogs and a clan of coyotes." He gets caught by "the coyote nation" and faces certain death.

I wonder how the coyote's are drawn? The references to American Indians are undeniable... Some people will blast me for saying "not recommended" when I haven't read the book yet, but right now, my instinct is to say "not recommended."


Betsy McEntarffer said...

I read Hank the Cowdog several years ago when I was a paraeducator at an Elementary School. I tried to convince teachers and the librarian that the coyote images (believe me when I say the visual images are as bad or worse than the verbal ones)would make readers think of American Indians and were terribly derogatory and insulting. Needless to say I was pretty thoroughly ignored - and the series is a best seller! My granddaughter now is reading the series so I talked with her about the coyote images and she said, "I know they're just made up coyotes, Grandma, Indians are totally different." I hope she truly does understand. Thank you for persevering in the face of continual publisher and author insensitivity. Some of us are listening.

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks for your comment, Betsy, and for trying to talk with teachers and librarians.

Earlier today I read about a study that suggests people 'feel the pain' of their own social group, but not so much of others. I'm wondering about the application of that study to the little change we see with respect to portrayals of American Indians... I imagine there is validity to the study for some people, but there are exceptions. You're one (I'm guessing you aren't Native) exception, and there are others. How can we use this study to get others to see what we see? Here's the link: