Rocky and His Responsible Band of Cowboys
by Janet H. Councilman
Authors Press

"As the Cowboys carefully crossed the street a strange thing began to happen. More lights began to appear in the haunted house."

What child does not love Halloween? This is the season for tricking and treating, and Rocky and his adorable, well-behaved friends from Old Oak Woods are back for another adventure, one which introduces yet another healthy character trait to young children. Councilman, who is quite a prolific author and illustrator and has written many picture books for young children, excels at creating stories which serve not only to entertain but provide important lessons about building good characteristics, such as respect, responsibility, being helpful, caring, safety, sharing, and honesty.

In this particular tale, our adorable protagonist, Rocky, has been taught by his Mom to always do as you are asked and to do your best. The day before Halloween, Rocky is making plans for an adventure with his friends Spike the Split-Eared Squirrel, Tommie the Turtle, and Ollie the Owl. The subject of the empty house across the street, which “is said to be haunted,” comes up because Mr. Opossum (the mailman) had talked about goblins roaming around there and strange things that go bump in the night. As such, Rocky and his friends “band together to be brave Cowboys and to be responsible” on their Halloween night mission to check out the old, abandoned house. They have fun dressing up in cowboy hats, tying bandanas on, and sporting boots. While helping Mrs. Raccoon carve her jack-o-lantern, the band of friends notices two lights on in the “haunted house.” Being careful to stay out of the street, they go to explore. As more lights turn on in the house, the friends learn from Uncle Feathers that it is not haunted; rather, new neighbors named the Ghouls are moving in. Tommie the Turtle declares with gusto, “Cowboys, we really are the best in the West and now we can move on and have some fun!” And that is precisely what they do.

For young boys and girls, Councilman has written and illustrated an engaging and fun book that imparts in a gentle way its lesson of responsibility. Although the book would be enhanced by additional editing to correct some misspellings and grammatical errors, it should be emphasized that these minor mistakes can be easily overlooked by an adult reader sharing this story with young boys and girls. The characters—all different animals who inhabit Old Oak Woods—display the meaning of responsibility as outlined by the author: doing what you are supposed to, using self-control, being self-disciplined, considering ahead of time the consequences of choices made, and being accountable for those choices.

In addition to her other children’s books in the Rocky the Raccoon series, Councilman has authored a book starring another protagonist from nature titled Sammy the Shark and the Return of the Lost Gift. All of these books introduce the above-mentioned good character traits through the use of storytelling and feature fun plots involving characters young readers will enjoy meeting. Rocky, Spike, Tommie—and even Mr. Opossum, Uncle Feathers, and, of course, the Ghouls—are somewhat reminiscent of the different animal friends in English author A. A. Milne’s famous books about Winnie the Pooh. Councilman's Old Oak Woods have much in common with Milne's well-known and highly loved Hundred Acre Wood, and that is a wonderful and appealing thing.

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