Monday, August 31, 2009

Hank the Cowdog/ Maverick Books

I remember, soon after teaching my now 15 year old son to read, asking a simple question at my local homeschool support group. “What boy friendly series can you recommend?” I queried. Unfortunately, the answers I received were mostly blank stares and mentions of heavy duty Henty books, or not so contemporary Box Car Children. I needed a fun, adventure based series that could last a school year for my son. I wanted it to be full of contemporary thought, situations and all important boy-friendly humor.

I never did find that series at the time, but I am ready with a new recommendation when someone asks me the question. Let me introduce you to Hank the Cowdog! Hank the Cowdog, Head of Ranch Security, along with his faithful deputy, Drover (dog) currently has 54 different adventures available in paperback for $4.24 each or $12.49 for a hardback copy. In addition, Hank stars in 5 audio only stories produced by Maverick books, because author John Erickson, always intended his Hank the Cowdog series to be read aloud adventure for the whole family.

Erickson, a Christian ranch owner residing in Texas, writes the Hank books from a dog’s point of view; a dog that is all business. The flavor of the west, especially life on a ranch, shines through page after page. Readers will enjoy the sense of humor, slang, and obvious attention to detail the author provides making clear the really important things in life, according to Hank and friends. For anyone who has ever thought their dog might just have a secret life, this series is for you.

Once readers have become fans of Hank they will want to log onto his website at Fans can find an interactive map of the fictional ranch to explore, a special “meet the characters” section, 8 different on-line games related to the books including mad libs and tic tac toe, a “Talk to Hank” guestbook where messages can be left and of course a store full of everything Hank. Passionate readers can sport Hank the Cowdog t-shirts, purchase character puppets to reenact stories, and buy whole collections of audio, paper and hardback versions of the books. True fans can become members of Hank’s Security Force for only $12.95 for two years. Security Force members receive special access to “secret” web pages on the site, a subscription to the “Hank Times” newspaper chock full of contests, puzzles, book previews and special stories of Hank and friends, and a welcome pack complete with paperback book of choice, coupons, poster and bookmark.

Our family received adventure #8, The Case of the One-eyed Killer Stud Horse, Hank’s Tornado game, and a special sampler CD, “Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog” as an introduction to the canine wonder. The 12 chapter book is written at a 3rd/4th grade reading level. Chapters are short and entertaining making it a great read aloud able to be squeezed in anytime with kids.

The sampler CD has excerpts from stories narrated by Erickson complete with character voices and sound effects. Unfortunately, without the complete story the CD leaves listeners wishing they had more. Also included are 9 original songs sung by the characters. “Tales and Tunes” is an excellent bargain at only $3.00 providing great car entertainment and instant insight to the character and nature of all the Hank books.

My kids pulled out the Tornado game one day last summer in between lazing in the pool and snacking. The game designed for 2-4 players focuses on the theme and chase of adventure #25, The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado”. Players of the popular board game Trouble will see many similarities, however this game designed for travel stores very easily with spinner, and place markers/characters tucked neatly in its plastic case. The game retails for $12.99.

“It does look like a tornado when it turns”, said Micah, age 12 when commenting about the game’s spinner.

The kids took about an hour to play one game, but mostly because we had issues with our spinner that kept landing on number 5. This glitch brought about complaints from some, but Micah insisted, “the storyline seems very appealing and the characters are cute”.

Sierra, age 7 had a more critical view. “I thought it was so slow and a bit boring. I like the characters, but I don’t like the spinner.”

Aidan, age 5, a more enthusiastic participant said, “I liked it! It was very good and it was super awesome”.

Jonah, age 14, brought up an interesting point while watching us play the game. ”Wouldn’t it be easier to just read the story rather than playing it?”

“Yes, Jonah”, I told him. “It might, but I think you missed the point. There is nothing better than seeing your favorite book come to life, especially if you get to help the Head of Ranch Security in the process.”

1 comment:

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