Thursday, August 20, 2009

Family Fun From Maverick Books' Hank The Cowdog

The history of Hank The Cowdog in our family ...

Eight years ago, I was introduced to Hank The Cowdog at a homeschool conference.  Diana Waring was talking about how much her family was blessed by reading Hank The Cowdog together, enjoying the laughter and memories it created.  If Diana Waring said it was one of the best things that ever happened to HER family, then you KNOW that I was going to read them aloud to MY children, as well.

I quickly bought a couple Hank The Cowdog books and read them to myself.  I thought they were hilarious, and sat down to read one to my kids.  Except, this was 8 years ago ... and my oldest was 6.  The children didn't understand the references to country living, and they certainly didn't catch any of the puns, misused words, or circular logic that Hank and Drover are famous for.  I was disappointed and set the Hank books aside.

As my oldest grew older and began looking for new chapter books to read, I handed her a Hank the Cowdog book.  She loved it, and read every Hank the Cowdog book we (and our library) owned!  She was old enough to appreciate the humor at last, but we still didn't fully understand the country life references.  The other children weren't interested in reading them, although we both tried to convince them.

How the Homeschool Crew revived our love of Hank The Cowdog ...

I was pleased to be able to review 3 items from Maverick Books for the Homeschool Crew this summer.  Since I was first introduced to Hank The Cowdog I had learned a little bit more about the author.  John R. Erickson is a Christian, a former cowboy, and ranch manager.  He lives on a ranch in Texas, and the stars of his books (Hank and Drover) were real dogs that he once worked with.  I'd been meaning to try reading the books aloud again, and the Homeschool Crew gave me the push I needed.

When our package from Maverick Books arrived, I started reading The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse aloud to the kids right away.  I was thrilled to find that I now had an appreciative audience!  The 14 year old, 12 year old, 10 year old and 8 year old all enjoyed listening to the book.  The 5 year old and 3 year old listened in, but I know they were missing the point of many of the jokes.   The children begged me to read "just one more chapter" before bed!

Now that we live in the country, with a family dog, and a neighbor dog, and chickens, and barn cats ... and a septic tank ... there are parts of the story that are so much funnier than they were when we lived in town.  I didn't even understand just how nasty it was that Hank enjoys lying in the septic tank leak until we had our septic tank pumped out last year.  Now I understand why Sally May dislikes Hank so much! 

As we've been enjoying reading about Hank and Drover, our dog and the neighbor's dog have taken on new personalities to me.  Now, I admit that MY dog is smarter and classier than Hank ... a bit ... but the neighbor's little dog that follows our dog around all day ... he's Drover for sure!   Every time I see them harassing the cats, scaring the chickens, running through my garden, or guarding the road ... I see Hank and Drover.

I will say that there are words in the Hank stories that I just don't say (gosh, darn, dang) so I skip them as I read aloud.  I don't mind my older children reading those words in the chapter books because they know we don't repeat them, but I don't want the younger kids to hear Mom saying them ... even if they are in the book. 

Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog CD

The other day our family was out shopping the yard sales on a Saturday, and I put the Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog CD into the car CD player.  We enjoyed listening to the story excerpts from 10 of the Hank books, and 9 original songs ... told (and sung) by the author himself.  It is hilarious to hear John Erickson telling his own story, with voices that I have tried to replicate, but just can't quite manage.  Of course, it leaves you wanting to read the books to find out the rest of the story!  Two of the songs on the CD are from the book we've been reading, and it's fun to hear the tune that goes with the printed words in the book.  It helps to bring the story alive, and I'm sure when we read the book again we'll be singing the songs instead of just reading them. 


The last item we received to review was Hank's  Tornado Game.  This little board game has a plastic game board which folds shut, with all the pieces tucked inside, so it travels easily.  The point of the game is to get all three of your pieces (Hank, Drover, and a buzzard) onto the board, around the board, and into your safety zone.  If you land on another person's character, they have to go back to the beginning.  This is a cute and fun game, and it comes with a cassette tape that includes excerpts from Hank #25 The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado, including "Drover's Tornado Safety Song". 

We first played this game with four children (including two young ones), but it seemed like everyone was getting sent back to the beginning far too often.  The younger children had not played a game like that before and found it very frustrating.  The solution to that problem was to have two players instead of four, and keep working on character issues like good sportsmanship.

As you can tell, our family enjoys Hank The Cowdog, in all his forms.  I know that some families feel the language is not appropriate for their home, and others don't care for the rude name-calling between the animals ... but we enjoy the books for their unique humor.  It's just fun to read these light-hearted books aloud as a family, or to yourself.  Of course, you do have to be careful ... if you laugh too hard, you might choke on something.

You can find more books, stories on CD, toys and games available at the Hank The Cowdog website.  The books are available individually as paperbacks for $4.24,  or also in hardcover, and in sets.  The Tales and Tunes sampler CD is available for only $3.00, and audio-book CDs are available as 2-book sets for $28.99.  The Tornado Game is sold for $12.99.

Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner at the top to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting in Him,

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