Thursday, July 30, 2009

TOS Crew Review -- Hank the Cowdog

Hank logo

What do mixed metaphors, man's "best friend" (using that term VERY loosely in this case), and life on a ranch have in common? None other than Hank the Cowdog.

Prior to laying my eyes on this book I had not made an acquaintance with Hank, and I have mixed feelings after spending a couple afternoons with him.

Tornado game

We received a book, CD, and game (with an audio book on tape) to review. Before jumping into the book my kids couldn't resist trying their hand at Hank's Tornado Game. This was our first look at Hank, Drover and their friend the buzzard. The game finds its inspiration in the storyline of The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado. Players can tussle with a tornado, fly by fellow players, and ultimately end up at the finish line.

In this Trouble style game, each player has three pieces, one each of Drover, Hank, and the buzzard. The buzzard starts further down the trail in a cottonwood tree, just like in the story. A spinner attached to the middle of the board completes the pieces needed to play the game.

We appreciated the travel-game design which holds all the pieces inside when not in use, so hopefully they will all stay around for quite a few rounds of this sturdy and enjoyable game. One small downside we discovered . . . the game can last a very long time if you have the full four players. We kept landing on each other, and getting sent back to home, prolonging the game. The kids still had a great time, but I was ready to impose a "no more going home" rule about 45 minutes into it.

Two of my girls played the game at a different time and said they only sent each other back once or twice, and did enjoy the game even more. (Can I say, "I told you so?")

While playing we decided to pop in the Tales and Tunes CD (on special right now for $3 on their website) to listen while we played. While it was getting going I looked over some of the titles and decided to give it a pre-listen before listening as a group. Some of the titles and lyrics discouraged me from playing this CD for my kids. I listened to it on my own later, and was disappointed in some of the words used by the characters in the songs and story excerpts. Words such as "hiney" "dumb" and "dingbat" made more than one appearance throughout the recording.

It was mildly amusing, but not something I could let my kids listen to without reservations and a finger on the fast-forward button. As for the music itself, some of the songs were slow and beautiful, and others were catchy and toe-tapping. And, they left me wondering what the book would have to offer.

Hank #8
One afternoon a few days later we settled in for some family read aloud time with Hank's Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse. By the top of the second page, I put the book down and we decided to read something else. In the opening of the book it depicts the story ahead to be scary, so scary you might wet the bed. And, then Hank (from whose viewpoint the story is written), says you can just tell your parents that it must have rained in that spot over night.

That just didn't sit well with me. I know it was intended to be funny, but I have a hard time taking lightly anyone that tells kids to deceive their parents. I then looked through the book a little more on my own and started to see the appeal of the books.

Hank is rather humorous. I couldn't help but laughing more than once. So, we decided to give it yet another try, and I would edit as I read. This is something I often do since we have quite an age range in our at home audience. I skip over sentences of violence or questionable words that pop up in otherwise beneficial reading. And, as I read, Hank kind of grew on us all.

His unappreciated affection for his owners, his tolerating and training of Drover, his simple-minded fellow ranch hound, and his ability to mix metaphors beyond recognition drew chuckles out of all of us at one time or another. With my on-the-fly edits of various words (stupid, idiotic, dadgum, etc.) the book was quite enjoyable.

If you are interested in purchasing Hank items they are available on the Cowdog's own website. They offer everything from posters to sweatshirts to paperbacks, audio books, and the Tornado game that we enjoyed the most. Prices for their products range from $3 to $22 for individual items.

Each family would need to determine if this book and other Hank products would offer appropriate reading for them. Take into consideration the age of your kids, and your personal standard for your home. We just might be enjoying another Hank story now and then from our library, the edited read-aloud version in our case. :-)

Read what others on the TOS Crew had to say about Hank the Cowdog

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