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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Maverick Books Review-Hank the Cowdog

I have a friend whose kids LOVE Hank the Cowdog, and that was my first introduction to him...and the plethora of books about his adventures. I have to admit though, before the TOS Crew was asked to review a few products by Maverick Books, I had never actually looked at a Hank the Cowdog book myself.

We received three different products to take a look at, all based on Hank and his adventures. The one that grabbed the kids' attention right out of the box was the Tornado Game ($12.99). Played very much like Trouble, but with a spinner instead of a pop-die, it features characters from the Hank books in a mad dash around the board to get all your pieces "home" before your opponent(s) do the same. My kids played this for AGES and AGES, and all of them, from the 4 year old to the 12 year old could play with little help from me. We found it worked better for family peace if only two people play at a time so there is less chance of getting sent back to start and thus having a never-ending game. The best things about this game from my perspective is that the game board, which is made out of hard plastic, folds in half and all the pieces fit within the plastic case that the board forms when it is closed. It makes it great for travel and to making sure your don't lose pieces. The game also comes with a free cassette with 30 minutes of music and story excerpts from the particular Hank story the game is based on. I'm not sure how many people still have cassette players, but we do, and my daughter found the game to be even more fun once she knew the back-story to it.

My daughter is the book-on-tape/CD queen in our house, and she promptly took off with the second product we received- a CD with excerpts from 10 Hank stories and several original songs that go with the stories called Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog ($3.00). She liked that okay, but would rather have had ONE story to listen to. She said just when you started getting into the story, it would change. And being that we'd never read the stories before, it wasn't like listening to the excerpt reminded her of the full length story it represented. I have not listened to it in full (did I call her a book-on-tape queen? ...made I should have said "commando"-she's quite territorial) but the parts I heard were fun in that they are done in that old time radio-drama format (as our some of our favorite books on CD) but I was not so impressed with some of the language I heard the characters using-not bad, per se, just not deemed appropriate in our house.
So then we moved on to the book. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to those snippets of not-so-kind conversation before we dove into reading The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse aloud. Again, the language isn't "bad", and it seems to fit the stereotypical cowboy vernacular, but it's not the way I want my kids talking to each other, and we already struggle with them speaking to each other kindly, so I try to steer away from anything that would reinforce that type of dialogue exchange as being "okay". (For example, Hank talks to the cat Pete, and says, "Oh yeah? Who says?" Or the title of chapter 5 which is, "Was It My Fault That She Tripped Over Me and Twisted Her Dadgum Ankle?") I know not everyone has the same hang-ups about unkind language as I do, so let me say that if you don't mind some name-calling and disobeying authority the Hank books seem to offer a fun romp into the life of a cowdog and the adventures he encounters. And if you have reluctant readers, particularly boys, this series may well draw them out of their reading hesitancy and get them caught up in Hank's world, and all 54 books that detail his exploits.
So here are my thoughts:
The pros to the Hank books are that they may engage a gender/age that typically has been limited to sci-fi and war related books to find something to peak their interest. The Hank books are far more "wholesome" than most of those in that they do offer a glimpse of a real way of life for some pioneers of our past and even cattlemen of today. They are inexpensive ($4.24 each) and are also all available in an audio format.
The "cons" to me are the rough language. I hate to make it all about that, but we are talking about words that my children will be reading and putting forever int heir minds. They are WAY too adept already at taunting each other and calling names, so I won't chose to reinforce that by bringing more books into the house that teach them more of those behaviors.
The bottom line is that I can see how kids would love these books. And the game is really, really fun. But I myself would not buy more of these books because of the way the characters relate to each other. The game though is already the foundation for some fun memories.
To see more of the books about Hank the Cowdog, or view other products featuring Hank, go HERE. To read what other members of the TOS Crew have said about their experiences with Hank, go HERE.
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