Monday, August 31, 2009

TOS Review: Hank the Cowdog

Earlier this summer I received a package from Maverick Books containing three Hank the Cowdog products to review: a book, a CD, and a board game.

The author of the Hank the Cowdog books, John Erickson, is a former ranch manager and cowboy from Texas. He draws from his life on a ranch to create his characters and stories.

Hank the Cowdog is head of ranch security on a West Texas ranch. He and his sidekick assistant Drover have all kinds of crazy adventures as they patrol the ranch. Hank takes his job very seriously, is a wee bit cocky, and tends to boss Drover around. Loper, the ranch manager, and Sally May are Hank's owners, and he often finds himself walking on thin ice with them, especially with Sally May. Pete the Barncat is Hank's sworn enemy who enjoys getting under Hank's skin.

I first let Superman listen to the CD, Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog, which is a combination of excerpts from various titles in the series performed as a radio show along with some really fun songs. My son thought it was hilarious, and I have to admit that Hank makes me laugh too. However, I have a few issues with this cowdog, and I really should have previewed the CD first. It contains no foul language or violence, so you could consider it family friendly, but Hank does use words like "stupid" and "shut up". He also talks down to his cohort, Drover, and isn't always the most noble character.

Superman is eight years old, and we can talk through this sort of thing with him, helping him to understand that Hank may be funny to listen to, but he doesn't always make good choices.

Because of the tone of the stories and songs on the CD, which really are hilarious, I chose to just read the book myself. The Case of the One-Eyed Stud Horse brings Hank face to face with an intimidating, almost wild horse named Tuerto. In this story we do see Hank putting others ahead of himself, but we also see Hank's less desirable traits as well.

We all played the game, which is based on the book titled The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado. It's very similar to the games Headache and Trouble. Each person has three different game pieces, all of them characters from the stories. The object is to get your three pieces to the finish line first. Players can land on each other, and send each other back to the start, and landing on a tornado space can set you back as well. Included with the game is a thirty-minute cassette with excerpts from The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado. We don't have a cassette player handy in our house, so I did not listen to this.

The game is designed to fold up for travel, and as a result, is quite small. I also thought that the directions were somewhat confusing. My kids are fond of board games, so they stuck with this for awhile. I wouldn't say that it's become a family favorite though.

Hank the Cowdog books come in paperback ($4.24), hardback ($12.49), audio CD ($17.99), Read-Along Books and Cassettes ($17.99), and Read-Along Books and CD's ($19.99). The Hank Tales and Tunes CD that I mentioned above retails at $3.00. With the low price of the paperback and the Tales and Tunes CD, you could easily try Hank out for yourself, and see if these products are a good fit for your family.

If you want to learn more about Hank and his ranch friends, and see a list of books and other products, check out the official Hank the Cowdog website.

If you'd like to read reviews from other Crew members, please visit the Crew Blog.

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