Saturday, August 22, 2009


Hanging With Hank
A TOS Homeschool Crewmember Review of Hank The Cow Dog products from Maverick Books.

Today was a sad day in our household. We finally completed Book Number 8 of Hank The Cow Dog, titled, The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse. As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Homeschool Review Crew, I had received in the mail: the above-mentioned book, a CD (Tales and Tunes) and Tornado, a table game with accompanying story cassette tape. (Yes, you read it, a cassette tape. These stories have been around a while but are timeless tales.)

The stories, written from the perspective of the main character, Hank the Cow Dog, give a vivid picture of life on a cowboy ranch. The author, John R. Erickson is more than qualified to describe such a life, having been a real life cowboy himself.

I would say that the book is high interest, low reading level chapter book as it was written for ages 9-12 but my 13 and 15 year olds loved it. I have to confess to being entertained by the dry, “sneak-up-on-you” style humor that popped up throughout the book. My children usually hate reading and this took the stress out of telling them to pick up a book and read.

The story is about Hank the Cow Dog who has a run-in with a killer horse named Tuerto. In the beginning of the book, Hank gets food poisoned by some rotten bacon grease, and then he causes a few mishaps and gets himself in trouble with the humans. Hank spends some time with his fellow dog friends and watches them interact with their humans also. Then he finds himself all dolled up in the middle of a little girl’s dress up party. That is when the killer horse arrives on the scene and threatens the little girls. Hank becomes the protector, keeping us all on the edge of our seats. But you’ll have to read the book to know the ending. For now, I will share some specifics about the book.

Positive elements: 1. The book is “hold your sides and wipe your eyes” funny. We sometimes had a hard time stopping the giggles enough to read the story.
2. Hank and Drover show real life type of friendship with straight talk to each other as well as encouragement.
3. Language lessons are tucked in alongside the story plot. For instance, in Chapter 2, pages 10-11 contain this dialogue.

Hank: This is going to be a piece of cake, Drover.
Drover: Oh boy, it’s usually burnt toast and a busted egg.
The banter continues for a little while and then is explained.

Hank: Piece of cake is an expression, a figure of speech. It means, ‘This isn’t going to be easy’.” More discussion follows about word usage and meanings and it is done in a humorous and natural way.

Violent elements: Sally Mays hits Hank on the nose with a wooden spoon and also tries to choke him, Dogs fight with a “killer stud horse” who threatens to “keel” Hank. There are a number of threats and suggestions of possible violence. The killer horse is frightened away by a gunshot. There are a few more instances like this that bring to the surface dark feelings. Overall, though, the type of violence is milder than most old time cartoons and realistic for life on the farm. I used the situations in the stories to talk about real life in our day and age and to discuss appropriate behavior of people towards each other and towards animals. We also talked about animal instincts and how animals of different breeds react/communicate with each other.

Other possible negative content: Some words are spelled creatively to help the reader hear the accent of the characters. All of this is fine but could be a trip-up for children with language learning issues who need to see real life words spelled correctly. It would be a good opportunity for the parent or teacher to explain spelling rules and tell why writers use creative spelling sometimes.

Spiritual content: The book contains a comical piece called “Thank You Lord for Making Gals”. The prayer/song/poem appeals to boy type mentality toward girls at the preteen level. It is a good opportunity to talk about feelings toward the opposite gender and how girls and women should be treated. Although the piece is not very spiritual, it does mention the Lord. Other than that, there is no spiritual content at all (that I noticed).

Crude or profane language: Name calling, such as “dummy”, “moron”, etc. No actual cursing is used but close slang is often found. The language is very mild compared to daytime television and things children are regularly exposed to these days.

Comments from my children: “It was awesome. I want to read it again and again and again.”—13 year old. “It was fun. I enjoyed reading it.” –15 year old.

The CD and story tape were similar to the book. The CD contained excerpts from ten books and nine original songs. The one we laughed so hard at was the part where Hank pokes fun at Emily Post and manners. “We don’t really give a hoot and we don’t ever wear a suit…” Of course, we talked about manners and appropriate dress. Hank is saying what most people don’t dare to or can’t say (because they are human and he is an animal he can get away with it). This factor gave us the opening to talk about what people think and feel and how best to handle it. The CD was pure fun but did teach as well.

The Cassette contained dramatized clips from book #25, called, “Tornado”. There was a matching board game. Being Floridians who deal with tornadoes and hurricanes on a seasonal basis, the cassette and game gave me an opportunity to educate the boys on tornados and to add a little light-heartedness to learning about the potentially frightful subject.

The game seemed to be somewhat like the game of Sorry or Trouble and had some similar rules. It was slightly more complicated and used more Math skills than some board games. Materially, I’ve not seen a game made as well as this one--ever. It is a hard, plastic box that folds to encase the pieces. It looks like a Square Chinese Checkers box with different colors on the top and it’s about the size of a VHS tape when folded closed, only a little thicker and a little longer.

Each player was given pieces to represent Hank, Drover and Buzzard. There were specific colored dots on each player’s spot marked with pictures to tell you where to put the pieces. The game uses a spinner to determine steps and starts. Our boys played the game together and also invited some guests to join in a game or two. Everyone had a great time. The game feels very competitive. One of our boys reacted to the competition in a “not so nice” manner but the rest of the boys, guests included, had a great time and wanted to play the game again.

Overall, we really liked the books, CD’s and games even with some jokes that were groaners included. The boys are asking when I’m going to buy the next book and I may oblige them soon. The negative elements of the stories turned out to be very good conversation and teachable moments for my children who are young teens beginning to use logic and reasoning skills more effectively than they used to do.

If you are interested in purchasing these products, then go to and be sure also to check out their online community where your small children can join Hank’s security force, play games, and buy all kinds of Hank products such as puppets, cards, children’s books, t-shirts and books for adults as well.

Here is more contact info for this vendor:

VENDOR: Maverick Books
CONTACT: Gary Rinker
PHONE: 806-435-9778

To read more about this product and goods from other vendors working with TOS, visit The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's HomeSchool Crew Blog by clicking on the banner below.


JoJo Tabares said...

Thanks. I'll be checking that out. My son is 10. He is gifted so he reads well above his grade level. It's tough finding books that boys would like for this age group that don't talk about things he is not yet emotionally mature enough to handle. Thank you!

Tiffany said...

Thanks for the great, thorough review! I'll be looking into this one.