When I signed on with TOS Homeschool Crew, I knew I would be reviewing educational products, but I had no idea I would get to review books. Reading is one of my passions and the main reason this blog exists, so I was thrilled when a package of Hank the Cowdog goodies arrived in my box. Inside the package was the book Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse, the game Tornado, and the CD “Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog.” I had never read anything by John R. Erickson, although I was aware of Hank’s existance from my years as a public library aide. Now I wonder how I missed this hilarious series. Hank will not be a stranger to the House of Hope, especially as our girls get older!
Hank the Cowdog is the self-proclaimed Head of Ranch Security at his ranch, and he takes his job very seriously. With his sidekick Drover, Hank always has one ear cocked for the first hint of trouble, the other for the first hint of scraps being thrown out the back door. Hank’s voice is just funny–as in, I’m laughing out loud as I lie in bed reading this book just before lights out after a long day. He constantly mixes his metaphors, uses words he can’t pronounce properly, and fills the country air with so much bombast that you couldn’t cut it with a butcher knife. Here is an example:
We cowdogs are trained in the techniques of gathering, herding, and moving livestock, don’t you see. These techniques are accepted and respected by cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, and hogs.
In other words, we can do business with those animals. We may not like each other, but we all play by the same rules. When we dogs go to the pasture, we don’t have to invent a new game every time.
But horses? No sir. They won’t play the game. They make up their own rules. And they cheat. Anyway, I don’t get much of a kick out of fooling with horses.
Or, to put it another way, I often get a kick out of fooling with horses, and those kicks hurt.
And an example of his constant verbal clumsiness:
“That’s exactly what it means. Cheaters never win, Drover, and chinners never weep.”
Hank’s relationship with the dim-witted Drover is reminiscent of the relationship between Moe and Curly of the Three Stooges (although not as violent 😉 ). In other words, insults abound, but Drover is often blissfully unaware of Hank’s frustration with him. Although we strive for kindness in our speech here at the House of Hope (strive being the operative term for sure), I find this humor, well, humorous coming from cattle dogs. Your mileage may vary, of course. I only read a small excerpt from this book aloud to my girls (and this at Louise’s request while I was reading silently in the van), but mainly because most of this very verbal humor would go right over their heads. Due to a preponderance of insults and words like dumb, stupid, heck, etc., I’m not sure this one would ever be a read-aloud, but I think it would make a good audiobook selection or silent reading selection . (I have an aversion to saying words like that in front of my children, but when they’re older, I think that they will “get” that it’s a dog talking.)
My girls did enjoy a rousing game of Tornado. This game is very similar to the old Milton Bradley board game Trouble, only Tornado has a spinner instead of a “popomatic” die in the middle. Tornado is a small, travel-sized game that folds up into a little box, so it would be perfect as an on-the-go source of entertainment. The concept of the game is based on a story, “The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado,” which is also included on audiotape with the game. Although we had to quit before we actually finished playing the game due to the arrival of visitors, our whole family enjoyed this game. Louise, age 3 3/4, lost interest after a little while, but the game is marked ages 5+. I’m sure we’ll be playing it again as the girls get older.
“Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog” would be a great place to start if you would like to sample Hank before investigating this fifty-four book (and counting, I think) series. The books contain many songs that Hank and other characters compose “off the cuff” to fit the situations they face, and this CD offers an opportunity to hear the songs with musical accompaniment and in the different characters’ voices. The story excerpts give enough context so that the songs make sense, in addition to offering the listener a chance to get a feel for the different books. The CD is like an old radio drama–the different characters are read by different actors, etc. I listened to this while cleaning, and I enjoyed it so much that I forgot I was cleaning sheetrock dust off the furniture. 😉
I am pleased to give Hank the Cowdog a Highly Recommended endorsement! In fact, I think he might just make my Best Books of 2009 list, simply because I love the constant word-play and I think he is hilarious. Visit Maverick Books for more information about Hank the Cowdog, and visit TOS Homeschool Crew for more reviews.