Have you ever met Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security?Well, let me just introduce you to the cast of characters from this popular book series written by authentic Texas cowboy and ranch manager John Erickson.
First, of course, is the self-appointed head of ranch security, the ever-so charming and cantankerous mutt dog Hank, who tells these adventurous tales. His side-kick Drover, is a little white mutt with a "bad leg" who spends more time hiding from the action than partaking in the drama at the ranch. The ranch family consists of the ranch manager High Loper, his wife Sally May who seems to have a "Fundamental Disagreement" (which is one of the many hilarious songs on audio) with Hank, and the two ranch kids Little Alfred, who shares many adventures with Hank, and Baby Molly. Slim the ranch hand comes in as a "human version" of Hank, and adds a new dimension to the mishappenings and such on the ranch. Among the others are Wallace and Junior the buzzards, Pete the barncat and arch enemy of Hank (every story has to have one!), Rip, Snort and Scraunch the coyotes, and a few other silly characters. You can view the whole cast here if you’d like!
I’ve gone into a bit of detail here, because personification at our house has been a widely used device of imagination in our family since the baby days. When I was growing up, my own pets all had very unique personalities and voices in our family, and this has transfered to my own children. Every critter on our ranch has it’s very own place, personality, and voice. Incidentally, our "Head of Ranch Security" is our goose Bumblebee who has the UPS man scared to exit his truck, her sidekick is Panzer the white goose, and our colorful characters bloom from there from our "three stooges" roosters to the silly brainless guineas to the skinny Italian Greyhound Louie who does a great job at guarding the couch. I interject my own experiences here to help illustrate why Hank the Cowdog is such a big hit at our house. While the actual adventures and circumstances are different (we don’t kick dogs or call names around here), the richness of imagination and spirit of ranch life are quite parallel.
From Maverick Books (John Erickson’s very own publishing company he started in 1982), we generously received three products for review.
The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse
$17.99 audio cd
We already own this book along with a few others in the series of 54 adventures, but the girls were more than willing to enjoy it yet again!
Hank’s Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog CD
is the second product we received. Since I hadn’t read any of the books myself and was only familiar with the character descriptions from the girls talking about them, I was happy to have the opportunity to visit Hank’s ranch from the sampling of various books and songs on this CD. I will admit at first I was a bit concerned with some of the language and name calling since my three year old was listening, but he was more absorbed in the voices and animal characters than the particulars in this respect. He did react with "Uh oh," when Little Alfred got so angry that he called his Mommy a bad name then got spanked for it. He understands at three that crossing boundaries means consequences. For me this recognition wasn’t a negative aspect, but a positive reinforcement of what it means to obey. Now that our Hank the Cowdog spark has been fanned into a flame again, we will probably be checking out several audios from the library for listening during car travel time. On the Hank website there are 5 audio-only stories offered that look pretty cool, too!
$12.99 Tornado Game for 2-4 players
Now for the most exciting part, we got the coolest Hank game on the planet!! We LOVE games, but this is one of the neatest little games we’ve played! The compact little plastic gameboard folds out into an ideal playing surface with little cups that the playing pieces fit into so they don’t slide or fall off, which we’ve found to be of benefit when playing with a three year old (this game is recommended for ages 5 and up). I really love that each player gets a Hank, Drover and Junior the buzzard character piece with their color on the base to tell them apart, instead of each player having to choose which character to be. The tornado spinner in the middle is pretty cool, and snaps in and out for storing in the folded gameboard. This will be a perfect game to take on the road! We took the game with us this weekend while finishing up working on the house and the girls played it nonstop for three days!! Some play sessions took longer to finish than others because if a player’s gamepiece lands on an occupied space, the character who was already there has to go back to the start, where they have to roll a 1 or 6 to get back into the game (or just a 6 in Junior’s case)! This is a great family-friendly game!
My List of Hank the Cowdog PROS :
Motivational reading material for beginning elementary age readers to more advanced readers that love funny animal adventures. (Even adults will love the humor here!) My 12 year old read this book in less than an hour, but thoroughly enjoyed it.
Stimulates imagination through personification of cute animal characters in real life Wild West Texas setting. This series captivates the spirit of ranch life through the eyes of a silly dog who mixes up his vocabulary words ( this could even be an English lesson for us homeschoolers…LOL)
Written by a self-professed Christian writer who has a passion for writing, reading, family and kids. Incidentally this family homeschooled their kids, and speak around the country at conventions and seminars, and doing school programs. Gotta love a fellow Texan. ;-)Their ranch in Perryton, Texas is not too far from southwest KS where I grew up, and I have relatives we visited quite often in Perryton growing up. Small world!
The website offers some really neat stuff to go along with these cool stories. Besides games and songs, there’s a neat card game, drawstring backpack, puppets and plush toys, as well as a couple of cute t-shirt and sweatshirt prints! For a small fee, you can join "Hank’s Security Force" and receive some cool stuff including eight issues of the exclusive "Hank Times". You can play some fun ranch games on the website, as well talk to Hank, explore his ranch, or even email Mr. Erickson ! I know at my house my kids enjoy having these fun favorite-character extras!!
Very reasonable price tag, and can be found in most libraries.
My List of Hank the Cowdog Cons:
Language and behavoirs might not be appropriate for some families, or younger children.
Hank the Cowdog can be very addictive!!
So you want to give your kids a taste of wild-west ranch life? What are you waiting for…