Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hank the Cowdog - A Review


1. The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse in Paperback

2. "Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog" CD

3. Hank’s Tornado Game

Company: Maverick Books

Price: Paperback - $4.24

CD - $3.00 (On Sale)

Game - $12.99

Where to Buy: HankTheCowdog.com

Brief Overview:

The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog was published in 1983 by the author, John Erickson. Since then, the company has grown by leaps and bounds. They now have 54 stories, all available in paperback, hardback, CD and audiotape. Also available are a wide assortment of clothing, games, music CDS and stuffed animals.

In-Depth Look:

I had heard of Hank the Cowdog, briefly. But I knew very little about the company and had not seen any of the products first-hand. So when I learned that I would be receiving a sample of products, I was curious to have a look at it.

We received a paperback book (The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse – Book #8), a CD (“Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog”), and a board game (Hank’s Tornado Game).

The book:

Hank #8

Hank, the cowdog, is a self-appointed Head of Ranch Security in the Texas Panhandle. His sidekick is Drover, a not-so-capable “little white mutt”. Together, they patrol and “protect” the ranch. Hank has his fair share of escapades in this adventure, from causing Sally May to break her ankle to fighting Tuerto the Killer Stud Horse. He also has some special times with his human family, from playing dress-up with Amy and Ashley to “almost” having a bonding moment with Sally May.

I read this book to my 10 and 7 year old daughters. They had never heard of Hank and knew nothing of his adventures. So, it took us a while to get a feel for who the characters were. We also weren’t use to reading from an animal’s point-of-view. At times, especially when several animals were speaking, my daughters had trouble keeping track of who was talking when. After some confusion, I began using voices to distinguish between Hank and Drover.

This particular story was a bit slow-going at the start and didn’t hold my girls’ attention for the first few chapters. Hank had a way of going on and on about the same thing at times. For instance, he spent two chapters talking about food scraps. However, as I came to understand, that is just the kind of fella Hank is. About the time that Sally May broke her ankle, I thought the storyline picked up nicely. And by the time Tuerto came onto the scene, I was enjoying the action. My favorite part was when Hank put all fears aside to protect two little girls.

I have always loved dogs, so I was amused by their conversations and thought processes. Hank thinks he is super-smart, but often uses big words incorrectly in an attempt to impress Drover. He is always the loyal best friend to his human family, thinking that they must think just as highly of him, being totally shocked that they might consider him less than perfect. The parts where he bonds with the little girls touched my heart, reminding me of my own little girls and our dog. But as I mentioned, the most touching part for me was when Hank risked his life for the sake of those girls. Being a story about Texas cowdogs, there is the occasional minced oath and name calling thrown in. Since I used it as a read-aloud, I simply skipped over any words that I didn’t feel were appropriate.

As an added bonus, the last page has an order form to join Hank the Cowdog’s Security Force. Members receive a welcome package, eight issues of The Hank Times newspaper, and more Security Force Benefits. This is a nice set for long-time Hank fans.

The game:

Tornado game

Hank’s Tornado Game was made to go along with the story, The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado - #25. As such, it includes a free 30 minute cassette tape from the award winning audio. The game is for 2 to 4 players, ages 5 and up and is advertised as “The wildest race and chase GAME ever!” Each player gets a Hank, Drover and Junior (a buzzard) in their game color. You must spin a 1 or 6 to get a dog onto his starting circle; Junior needs a 6. You then keep spinning till you get all of your characters safely home. However, if anyone lands on you, you get sent back to the beginning (much like the game Sorry). If a character lands on a tornado space, you spin and go forward for an even number or backwards for an odd number (good way to get some more math practice in). The travel case gets 2 thumbs up in my book. Everything fits nicely inside and snaps shut tight for easy portability. The characters are sturdy and adorable. We had trouble with the spinner; it wanted to land on the same two numbers repeatedly for most of the game…much to our frustration since they weren’t a 1 or 6 (the numbers needed to get out of start). But you could easily use a die instead of the spinner; just throw it into the travel case and it would be ready whenever you were.

Being sent back to start by an opponent, when you have worked so hard to get around the board can be very frustrating for some children (I know this from experience). If this is the case with your younger children, you may wish to consider not playing by that particular rule.

The instruction sheet includes a $2 coupon off a Hank Audio Coupon.

The CD:

Hank logo

“Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog” is currently on sale for $3 (Regular $12.99). It has story excerpts from 10 books plus 9 original songs. The CD is 68 minutes long. John Erickson narrates excerpts from 10 stories on the CD, giving each character a unique voice fitting to their personality. It is a good way to get a feel for the stories and may help you narrow down your choice of which full-length book or CD to buy. As in the book, there are several instances of minced oaths and name calling. If this is of concern to you, it will be harder to “skip” on CD than in a read-aloud from a book.

The included songs are taken straight from the Hank adventure books. So if you have read some of the books, and thereby some of the song lyrics, and wondered just what the tune might be…well, here you go. Nine of them are on this CD. Taken out of context, the songs might not make much sense. But after reading the story that goes with it, you will envision the action every time you hear the song.

My favorite song is “Thank You Lord for Making Gals”. This one is taken from the book that I reviewed after Hank falls in love with the two little girls, Amy and Ashley. Granted this could have something to do with the fact that I have three little girls of my own. Some of the sweet lyrics are

“So thanks again for making gals!

They’ll treat you nice and be your pals.

But I swear by the stars above

Watch out, or you’ll fall in love!”

I will mention that “We Don’t Give a Hoot” states “…so if you should find us offensive, we will beat you up…and if you don’t like what we’re singing, we’ll beat you up again”. When I first heard this song, I was taken by surprise. But this is another instance of the song needing to be in the right context. This song is sung by two nasty coyotes, Rip and Snort, and they are just being true to their character. Neither the book nor the song is condoning the behavior.

However, there was one other song on the CD that I must mention. I am mentioning it to you, because I would want someone to mention it to me before I played it to my children, so that I could make my own decision about the matter. I’m not sure which book it is from or what context it is in, other than the fact that it is sung by Wallace the Buzzard. The song is called “A Pox, A Pox on Emily Post”. Some of the lyrics are “A pox, a pox on Emily Post; I thumb my nose at Emily’s ghost” and “The Devil can roast Miss Emily Post and I will raise a cheer”.

An added advantage is that the CD cover includes the lyrics to all of the songs, so you can easily peruse all the lyrics before playing the CD.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you discovered Hank the Cowdog! John Erickson is a genius! If you haven't tried the audiobooks, you should. The voices and music make a Hank audiobook an incredibly fun and exciting experience. I normally prefer reading a hard copy of a book, but I make an exception in Hank's case. Really, you should experience the audiobooks because they offer so much more than the books alone. We have listened to Hank for years, and enjoy checking the audios out from the library again and again. We have two going right now - my 17 yo son is listening to one and I'm listening to the other. My 12 yo daughter is listening to both of them.