A lovable bird dog points the way to outdoor fun in the country in this children’s book.
Harkey (The Budding Staff, 2005) presents a playful collection of stories narrated by a German short-haired pointer named Doc (his pedigree name is Chicoree’s Hickory Doc). The oldest in a family of five, good ol’ Doc spins colorful tales about quail-hunting dogs—like his daughter, Patch, who is the best tracker of all—in rural Oklahoma. Then there’s Doc’s laughably snooty little brother, Zeke, who brags about being kin to royalty because his coat is speckled instead of a “common” liver brown like Doc’s. The two brothers vie for the affections of Sly, a graceful bird dog with an impressive pedigree. Featuring other silly characters, such as a clumsy Labrador retriever named Newt, the tales reveal that life at the Lazy Dog Hacienda is full of giggly high jinks and an occasional snout of porcupine quills. There are scary moments, though, as when Big Bad Carl—the meanest hunter ever—steals Patch. And there’s some intrigue, including the mystery of the missing dog food. While conventional black-and-white drawings of big-eyed canines precede the chapters, they add little excitement to the stories (aimed at elementary school readers). But catchy chapter titles, like “Hamburgers, Fries, Caesar Salad, and Temptation,” and boldface subtitles break the prose into eye-appealing sections. With a voice that’s as friendly as a neighbor at the door with a pecan pie, Doc’s down-home dialogue is sprinkled with references that many kids should like. For example, he uses fast food to describe the scent of quails: “Well, I can tell you they smell like no other smell—sort of a cross between chicken nuggets and fries.” When he’s around Zeke, Doc acts like a human brother; for example, they have staring contests. For those who aren’t squeamish about dogs eating pig ears for snacks, this collection gently—and respectfully—offers the basics of quail hunting: during the “off season,” the birds “need to rest and repopulate.” Harkey accents the prose with short, memorable landscape descriptions: wind that’s always blowing and prairie grass way taller than the dogs.
A sweet slice of rural American canine life.