May 2003

More fun with the Hocky family

By Lane Smith
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See the Hocky family. See Mr. and Mrs. Hocky. See Henry, Holly and Baby Hocky, and Newton, the Hocky pet. Many things have happened since the gang first appeared in print 10 years ago, and now they've moved to the country. As with The Happy Hocky Family, Lane Smith's quirky take on the Dick and Jane readers of days gone by, children and grownups alike are treated to a slyly humorous story. Offering short chapters illustrated with Smith's trademark goofy pictures, which are printed on brown paper reminiscent of the lunch bags of old, this new entry in the life of the Hocky family succeeds on many levels.

The round-headed Hockys (it's hard not to think of hockey pucks!) blunder their way through their new lives in the country, and the visual and verbal jokes that ensue leap off the pages. Using familiar, repeated phrases and many words in CAPITAL LETTERS, Smith tweaks the familiar basal reader while telling a completely new story. In a chapter called "Meet the Neighbor," we're introduced to Farmer Dill, whose middle is swelled almost to the ends of his outstretched arms. "Farmer Dill has LOTS of animals. He has chickens, goats, geese, cows, and pigs." Our happy family's wide smiles show us just how wonderful these animals are. But the wind changes, the page is turned, and their delight turns to revulsion. The big grins turn to frowns as all the Hocky noses have fingers pinched to them ("PEE-YEW!").

Though Smith's newest offering is clearly a parody, it still does the important job of any good early reader. Familiar situations (a family move, life on a farm), funny occurrences (the baby makes friends with a skunk, someone picks a poison ivy bouquet) and repeated words (LOOK, LOOK RUN, RUN), and illustrations that provide the necessary clues for figuring out unfamiliar words all help the beginning reader enjoy this sophisticated tale. Since the book is sure to become a favorite with little readers, parents will appreciate the humor as well. See Mom giggle. See Dad smile. See child read and laugh. See the newest Hocky family book being read OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER.

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