TOS Crew: Hank the Cowdog!

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I’d heard about Hank the Cowdog for years from other moms, all saying that the books were cute and comical. I thought it was a sure thing… until that day in the bookstore, a few years ago, when we were browsing. I picked up Hank the Cowdog and said, “Well, shall we try this one?”

To my surprise, Middlest (about 10 at the time) returned an emphatic No! She’d read some of a book at a friend’s house and hadn’t liked it. Didn’t want to read it. Didn’t want to discuss it. That… as they say, was that. Or so I thought.

I was a little dismayed when Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse arrived, along with a game and CD. I guessed I’d be enjoying it all by myself and reviewing it without any help from the girls. I was wrong.

A few days later, I heard laughter coming from the living room. This wasn’t your average, run-of-the-mill, little chuckle and then quiet. This was a guffaw, followed by a moment of quiet, followed by belly-clutching laughter.

Knowing that Middlest is invariably found reading a book during her free time, I ventured, “Good book, eh?”

She answered, chortling, that it was one of the funniest books she’d ever read. Absolutely ridiculous!

I’m not what made the difference. Age, perhaps? Three years ago the books were just “too stupid” to read, and now at the more sophisticated age of 13, “too stupid” translates into howlingly funny.

We also received Tornado, a Hank the Cowdog-themed “race and chase game” touted on the box as “the wildest ever!”

Gameplay proceeds along the lines of Parcheesi or Sorry! with your game pieces starting out waiting on the sidelines, waiting to get onto the board, then proceeding around the board to the finish. If someone lands on one of your game pieces, they send that piece back to start.

Each player has three game pieces to get around the board: two dogs (Hank and his sidekick Drover) and a vulture (a friend of Hank’s–or not, Middlest tells me). Moves are determined by a spinner with numbers from 1 to 6. “Tornado” spaces add interest; when you land on one of these you spin, and depending on the next spin, move forward or backward. First one to the finish wins!

Tornado is made of sturdy plastic and is designed for playing while on the go. It makes a perfect car-trip game, for example. The spinner snaps into the game board, and the pieces fit snugly into cups that march around the board, making it hard to knock pieces loose or spill the pieces off the board.

The game is designed for ages 5 and up, and probably targeted at the elementary crowd, but Eldest and I played the game while waiting for a younger sister in the orthodontist’s office, and found it a pleasant way to pass the time.  The small pieces make for a choking hazard for young children, something to keep in mind.

The game comes with a cassette tape with a 30-minute excerpt from an audio version of Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado. Very appropriate, as the game is based on this book. The author does a great job of narrating and giving differing voices to the characters, supported by Western-themed background music.

Visit Hank’s website to order books, CDs, t-shirts, and more, to listen to audio samples, or to see a sample of Hank’s newsletter and an opportunity to sign up to join Hank’s worldwide security force. The Case of the Killer One-Eyed Stud Horse is available in paperback for $4.24 and unabridged audio CD for $17.99. Books are also available in hardback, on audio cassette, or in a combination (book and cassette or CD).

Hank the Cowdog may not be to every taste, as evidenced by Middlest’s reactions at different ages. Some families might have problems, for example, with name-calling. If you’re picky, you might want to pre-read before handing to your children or reading aloud.

As for Middlest, she’s found a new favorite.

To read more TOS Crew reviews of Maverick Press and Hank the Cowdog, visit this link.

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