Funny and Family-Oriented: Hank the Cowdog

John R. Erickson

Meeting an author in person is always a delight.  John R. Erickson, best known as the creator of the Hank the Cowdog series, walked out in front of the crowd of parents and kids at our conference with a banjo slung over his shoulder and an honest-to-God BIG Texan cowboy hat.  His seminar on writing and creativity was a long-series of tales and songs that had the entire crowd laughing.

Mr. Erickson embodies the writer’s adage to “write what you know”, having been raised in the Texan panhandle and worked as a ranch hand.  His quirky animal and human characters are based on dogs, horses, and people that he has known and they thrum with life.

And his stories are funny, funny, funny!  Hank the Cowdog, as head of ranch security, takes his job VERY seriously.  His sidekick, Drover, loyal and long-suffering, helps him out and doesn’t criticize Hank’s many bloopers.

Sixty-one great tales make up the Hank the Cowdog series at present.  Even more impressive is the fact that John Erickson himself reads the stories for the audio books and he is GOOD.  All the voices and accents!

For those of us who are aspiring writers, Mr. Erickson stands as a model for integrity, independence, perseverance and excellence.  At the beginning of his efforts to bring his authentic, humorous stories to publication, no East Coast publishers would bite: “too provincial”, they said.  Millions of copies later, they have eaten their cowboy hats. 

Mr. Erickson, with the support of his good wife, Kris, started Maverick Books in his garage and the rest, as they say, is history.  Viking/Penguin now publishes the books, while Maverick Books retains the audiobook manufacture.

More on this fascinating writing and publishing story is found in his book, Storycraft, published in 2009 by Maverick Books, a collection of Mr. Erickson’s reflections on faith, culture and writing.

I read it cover to cover this summer – riveting!

In the chapter “Hank and Theology”, he comments: “In humor, the impact of the message is never quite under the author’s control.  When the audience laughs, we’re never sure whose face has caught the pie.  This makes humor a risky medium…Humor is a gift from author to audience, and once it’s passed along, it can’t be called back.  Writers who insist on controlling the message will never feel comfortable taking such a risk.” (p. 96, Storycraft. Perryton, TX: Maverick Books. 2009).

 Don’t we crave good, wholesome humor?  This series possesses it in spades, both for adult and child.  I recommend the audio versions of the stories with original songs performed by the author.  If you haven’t experienced this world yet, you are in for a treat.

Are you a bonus features fan like I am? If so, the author’s website will delight and amaze.  It is chock full of audio commentary, author biography, links to articles by the author, games and contests for kids, and lots of colorful illustrations:

Categories: Children's Books, Humorous, Inspiration, Music, Read Aloud, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Music for Narnia Fans -“Fable” by Benjamin Dunn

“Fable” by Benjamin Dunn and the Animal Orchestra

Dear Narnia Fans:

I am writing with happy news!  There is now an album of wonderful Narnia music for our listening enjoyment.  Benjamin Dunn & The Animal Orchestra has accomplished a beautiful thing: putting our favorite characters and scenes from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader into indie-style songs with profound lyrics in the album “Fable”.  Here is an sample:

“My Name is Eustace”

You dig your claws into my chest

I know only you can undress

All these scales and all of my shame

You dip me into the waters of your grace

You clean me and kiss me on my face

Only you can dress me in love again

My name is Eustace

And I’m not used to this

Grace that makes death die

My name is Eustace

I’m not used to this

Love that makes men alive

You came in an unexpected face

Grace came in an unexpected place

You came and dressed me in love again

When you smile the winter meets it’s death

When you turn we have spring again

Only you can dress me in love again

Remember that scene when Eustace receives the help of Aslan? recently reviewed and praised  the album:

“The album works allegorically in the same fashion as C.S. Lewis: the purpose is to glean spiritual insight from stories rather than straight forward theology. As far as the Lewis references go, there are some fairly obvious ones, such as “My Name is Eustace” and “Caspian.” But the rest are fairly subtle, such as the brilliant homage in “Sail To the End” to the mouse Reepicheep from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Of course, Dunn doesn’t limit himself to works based on Narnia, but includes other works, such as the brilliant Space Trilogy. Now, I’m not going to give any more references away, partially because I haven’t read some of Lewis’ novels for a couple years and accordingly I’m not sure about some of them, but also because I found that half the fun of the album was delving into each song and trying to figure out from whose perspective it was from. If you’re a Lewis fan, you’ll love it, and if you’re not, then the depth in the lyrics is still apparent and accessable (sic) to anyone.”

“The Chronicles of Narnia” live on, as evidenced by the profound heart and skillful music of Benjamin Dunn in “Fable”.  Please comment to let me know what you think.

Your fellow Narnia Fan,


Another article on this album:

Categories: Fantasy, Inspiration, Music, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

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