Hank the Cowdog 2
By Bryan McBride, Learning and Information Services Librarian
“It’s me again, Hank the Cowdog.” These words begin every book in the Hank the Cowdog series, followed closely by “Head of Ranch Security.” There are currently 73 volumes in this series, and they do not need to be read in order. Hank can be found on the shelves of the children’s library, and these books are fun! He has a sidekick named Drover, whose “bum leg” seems to act up any time there’s trouble on the ranch and Hank needs help with security. Hank’s nemesis, Pete the Barncat, shows up to keep him in line when he gets a little too big for his britches. Also present to keep Hank in his place is the ranch hand, Slim Chance, and Slim’s boss, Loper.
Other characters who are present from time to time include a lazy, no-account bird dog named Plato, as well as Beulah, the canine of Hank’s dreams. Hank also thinks highly of Missy Coyote, but her brothers, Rip and Snort, are not the kind of running mates that Hank wants helping with security. There would be concerns about his own safety as well as that of the henhouse. Then there are the two vultures, Wallace and Junior, always looking for their next meal.
The suggested reading level for Hank the Cowdog is ages 8 – 12 years, but here’s the thing: they are terrific read-aloud books for all ages. I started reading these books to my boys when my youngest was four years old, and he was far too young to understand much of what was happening in the stories. For me, it was fun to do the voices, and the boys enjoyed my efforts, so we kept at it. And kept at it, until my oldest was about sixteen years old, by which time they fully understood what was happening and we laughed and laughed and laughed at the adventures of ol’ Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security. We must have read at least 40 books in all. I just can’t overemphasize what an important bonding experience it was. As an alternative to reading aloud as children grow into teens, some parents find value in reading the same books as their kids as a way to connect.
We don’t often consider the social aspect of reading, although there was a time in our history when people discussed books they were reading rather than the current television shows of today. Thank goodness for book discussion groups, like our TALK series. If you enjoy book discussion groups, inquire at the library’s reference desk about the TALK series. They meet monthly in the spring and fall, and you can pick and choose which discussions interest you.
The aspect of social reading we are most likely to consider is the art and science of teaching children to read by reading aloud to them. There is research that backs up the adage: “Through third grade, kids learn to read. After third grade, kids read to learn.” An Annie E. Casey Foundation report summarizes: “The ability to read by third grade is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security.”
The most effective way to teach reading to children is to read aloud to them. This practice will help ensure that when they reach the fourth grade, they will be reading to learn. Formal literacy programs like our summer reading and 1000 Books before Kindergarten programs are important steps in learning to read. For more than 100 years, education researchers have been studying the phenomenon that has various names, including summer learning loss, summer setback, or summer slide. The skills of children who are not engaged in summer reading digress, or slide, from the end of the last school year to the beginning of the next school year. Summer reading programs combat this by encouraging kids to practice reading.
If you need a recommendation, don’t forget about ol’ Hank the Cowdog. After a decade of getting to know Hank, I know he’d love to tell you about his successes in keeping ranch headquarters secure. Even without Drover’s help.
We All Scream for Ice Cream
By John Pecoraro, Associate Director
You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream. July is over. Did you remember to eat copious quantities of ice cream during July, National Ice Cream Month? The average American consumes more than 26 pounds of ice cream per year. But the biggest lovers of ice cream are the folks of New Zealand who cool themselves down with over 35 pounds per person per year.
There are dozens of ways to eat ice cream, and countless flavors. Here is a selection of some of the books at the library that can help you create all sorts of frozen treats.
“Food52 Ice Cream and Friends,” by Amanda Hesser, offers a survey of frozen desserts from the editors of Food52.com. Impressive in its variety, the book includes all-new and reader-contributed recipes, such as the Saltine Cracker-Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich, and Lemongrass Chile Ginger Ice Cream. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of good old chocolate and vanilla as well. There are also helpful tips and tricks for enlivening melted ice cream, getting creamier scoops, and making store-bought ice cream a little more exciting.
Who invented ice cream? Mixing ice or snow with fruit, honey, spices, and other flavors has been around since about 500 BCE. Modern ice cream made with milk and cream was first made by hand in a large bowl placed inside a tub filled with ice and salt. In 1843, Nancy Johnson received a U.S. patent for a hand-cranked churn that replaced the pot-freezer technique.
“Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream Desserts,” by Jeni Bauer, shows you how to make frozen custard, soft-serve, and dairy-free ice cream. Of course you can use store-bought ice cream in all the desserts listed in her book, but where’s the fun in that? Instead try making Cumin & Honey Butterscotch, Extra-Strength Root Beer, or any of 30 new flavors.
Kris Hoogerhyde, owner of San Francisco’s Bi-Rite Creamery, presents 90 recipes for making ice cream and frozen treats in “Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones.” The book is organized by flavors, including vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and nuts. Each chapter features Bi-Rite versions of the classics, as well as elaborate variations. Brown Sugar Ice Cream with Ginger-Caramel Swirl, for example, or Chai-Spiced Milk Chocolate Ice Cream. Don’t forget the recipes for crusts, cookies, cones, and toppings to make your creations unforgettable.
Sample a nation’s worth of ice cream in “Scoop Adventures: the Best Ice Cream of the 50 States,” by Lindsay Clendaniel. The author offers the best from the best from across America. She also provides over 80 tested recipes for you to try in your own ice cream maker. Try Rhode Island’s Seaport Salty Swirl made with peanuts, pretzels, and caramel, or Alaska’s Refuge Wild Berry Snap made with blueberries, cranberries, and gingersnaps. The Kansas selection is Thai Peanut Curry ice cream from Glacé Artisan Ice Cream in Leawood (unfortunately the location has moved to KCMO since the book’s publication).
Sandwiches and good. Ice cream is better. Why not combine to two? Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus, does just that in her debut cookbook, “Coolhaus Ice Cream Book.” The book provides a humorous introduction to the history Coolhaus and offers readers the opportunity to recreate some of their signature ice cream sandwiches. Try the Bananas Norman Foster, the Oreo Heckman, or the David Rocky Roadwell made from S’mores Cookies and Nutella Toasted Almond Ice Cream. Recipes range from traditional to experimental and include vegan and gluten-free choices.
In 1978, 2 childhood friends, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, opened an ice cream parlor in a converted gas station in Burlington, Vermont. The rest is history. In “Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book,” the ice cream making legends share both their story, and dozens of recipes for delicious ice creams and desserts. The book was published in 1987, so their 11 greatest hits, while including New York Super Fudge Chunk and Cherry Garcia, does not include Chunky Monkey.
This is just a sample of the dozens of books available to help take the heat out of summer with delicious frozen treats.