It seemed like an innocent enough package that I pulled out of the mailbox last Friday. Out poured a CD, a book, and a box with a board game inside. Fritz asked "Are those for me?" And just like that, a weekend of wonderful summer fun began.
First we listened to the CD, Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog ($3.00). This contains nine original songs composed and sung by Hank's author, John R. Erickson. The tunes aren't what I would call "sing-alongs" and I doubt we would listen to them in the car. But as a means of introducing the songs, there is a exerpt from the audiobook from which the song comes. And these were hilarious!!! The author makes up voices for each character. We headed to the library that afternoon to see if we could get a full length audiobook. Saturday evening was unseasonably cool and we had a marshmallow roast in our firepit. I brought out the portable tape deck and we listened and laughed to The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog. He'll be going on next month's car trip to the grandparents as well. We also listen to books on tape at bedtime, but I'm not sure we'll use Hank for that--it seems to do more winding up than calming down.
Next we began to read Hank's eighth book, The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse. ($4.24 paperback) The chapter titles alone were making us laugh--like " Stricken with Sneezaroma Because She Whacked Me on the Nose with a Wooden Spoon." The book is written in first person, or first dog as the case may be. It's hilarious to see ordinary events like putting out scraps from a dog's point of view. Hank reminds me of Maxwell Smart from the old Get Smart tv series--a little overconfident, unaware of his own bumblings, but manages to see things through to the end.
I don't know if I did myself a disservice or not by listening to the audiobook before reading this out loud. I couldn't begin to compete with the character voices we had heard the night before. The audio books have become required media for all car trips and I can often hear Fritz singing along with the songs in his room.
Audio books might not be the best option for everyone. Hank lives on a ranch with cowboys, and cowboys like sailors are known for their "colorful language." The author certainly uses the mildest forms of these words--dadgum, for example. And there is a fair amount of namecalling: numbskull, moron, dummy, etc. If you would prefer to edit these out for your child, then you'll have to read the books out loud yourself.
It was the game Tornado ($12.99) he wanted to open first. I was impressed with the quality of the painted characters and the board. It makes an ideal travel game with indented spaces to hold the game pieces and it folds to store the pieces when not in use. We used it in the car and were able to pass it between the front and back seat without any problem. Two to four players try to manuever their three cute characters: Hank, Drover, and Junior the Buzzard around the board. The spinner, which looks like a whirling tornado, is enclosed in a bubble that attaches to the board and gets twisted with a knob on the top. This works much better than the flat arrow spinners from other games that get bent and stop working.
There are "tornado spaces" around the board. The player who lands on them must spin again and move forward the shown number of spaces if an even number appears, but must move backwards if an odd number comes up. This was Fritz's favorite part of the game (even making me choose to land on tornadoes) UNTIL he learned about the other feature of the game. If you land on another player's character, you send them back home to start over again. And the closer I was to the finish, the funnier he found it to pounce on me. Over the weekend Fritz asked to play the game seven times. I'd call that a hit.
There are over 60 books in the Hank the Cowdog series. You can purchase them in paperback, hardback and audio formats, as well as the Tornado game at HanktheCowdog.com