Illustrated by Cheryl Pilgrim
Texas Christian University Press
978-0-87565-615-1, hardcover, 40 pgs., $21.95
August 28, 2015
Hound Dawg is librarian Patricia Vermillion’s retelling of the folktale “The Little Red Hen” with a Texas twist. Veteran illustrator Cheryl Pilgrim provides whimsical images in the tradition of American folk art. Lazy Hound Dawg lives on a cotton farm with his industrious friends: Bessie the Cow, Calico the Cat, and Penny the hen. Hound Dawg is the story of how this idle hound (“Why he never worked a lick. The only thing he did was bark and howl”) earns his nickname: Guard Dawg.
One day Hound Dawg spies a sprout pushing up through the dirt patch next to his porch. Bessie the Cow inspects the sprout and declares it a cornstalk. Hound Dawg daydreams of cornbread while his exasperated friends (“Great balls of fur,” Calico said. “I’ll do it”) do all the work: tending, watering, harvesting, and baking. Meanwhile Hound Dawg channels Prissy from Gone With the Wind: “I don’t know nothing about making cornbread.” When I read that my brain added the “Miss Scarlett.”
Of course, when Hound Dawg smells the cornbread baking, he shows up for chow. Shamed by his friends, he slinks back out the door and under the porch, which turns out to be the perfect vantage point to see Raccoon headed for the freshly baked cornbread cooling on the windowsill. So Hound Dawg does what hound dogs do, chasing off Raccoon and saving the day. And that is how he earned his nickname, Guard Dawg. “And from that day ’til this, Hound Dawg always does — and gets — his fair share.”
While some adults may find Hound Dawg a tad heavy on the cornpone (Bessie the Cow is fond of exclaiming “bless my butter”), your little ones will love it, especially if read aloud with the proper twang. Children should be introduced to the joys of puns early (Penny the Hen declares the cornbread “eggcellent”). There are valuable lessons in this timeless tale: the work ethic and sharing, as well as forgiveness; the Texas twist makes it more fun.
Hound Dawg includes a bibliography, lesson plan suggestions for teachers, a recipe for cornbread, and fun facts about cotton and corn. These fun facts are a pleasant surprise. For example, cottonseed oil is used in toothpaste, baseballs, and motorcycle windshields, among other things. Did you know that corn is used in crayons, fireworks, and shoe polish, and that an ear of corn has 800 kernels? True story. I’m off to mail my copy to my grandson.
Hound Dawg is finally available. Yippee! The setting for this “Southern fried telling of The Little Red Hen,” writes Publisher’s Weekly, is down on a cotton farm. I grew up knowing about cotton farms in Mississippi, or so I thought. But while researching cotton, I discovered that it is grown in seventeen states. Gosh, I didn’t know that! And cotton seed oil is found in potato chips, toothpaste, baseballs, motorcycle windshields, and more! Now just look how important research can be. You might just learn something new!
Fun at UP library yesterday reading Texas Chili? Oh My! Lots of families visiting the library on a HOT Saturday afternoon.
HOUND DAWG movie trailer created by Cara Pilgrim, daughter of Illustrator Cheryl Pilgrim. Enjoy!
Shelia Turnage, my new favorite author. Why I have not read this book before now, it beats me. I did read through social media about the vocabulary Turnage used in THREE TIMES LUCKY. It was real Southern, and that always attracts my interest. When I read the protagonist name, Bo LoBeau, I knew I was hooked. Turnage creates a community of family life, mystery and fun. Now, on to THE GHOSTS OF TUPELO LANDING with Bo and Dale. Don’t you just love “summer time when the reading is easy?” Quail Ridge Books & Music, near Turnage’s home, keeps signed copies of her books in stock. Check their website for more information! www.quailridgebooks.com
John Rocco and Jay Primiano’s middle school novel is about friendship,family, and adventure. I believe John was an actual quahogger growing up. A must read for all who enjoy tales about clamming, fishing, friendship, family and competition.