I was so excited when I opened my package from Maverick Books. I am a lover of thematic teaching so when I ripped open the shipping box to find a book with an accompanying CD and board game, ideas starting bouncing around inside my brain so fast that sparks were coming out my ears. With nothing but a bunch of rambunctious boys in my house, the cowdog concept intrigued me too. I just knew this one was going to be a hit with our family.
The Tornado game ($12.99) was an instant hit. It is an adaptation of the classic game Trouble. The game board is smaller than Trouble, folds in the middle, and closes securely, allowing the game pieces to be stored within. The playing pieces are just so cute, too. The little red, blue, yellow, and green pegs each have small replicas of one of three Hank characters mounted on top. My boys loved this feature. It really added to the fun of the game because they could bark like Hank and make buzzard noises and such while playing. The figures on top made the pieces easier for small hands to manipulate, too.
My boys, ages 8 and 9, have played this game more times than I can count on my fingers and toes since it arrived just a few days ago. Because it is compact and self-contained, it is great for travel, too. I was expecting it to have the classic press-and-pop "spinner" because the game is so similar to Trouble; however, the spinner matches the theme and is a tornado-shaped, traditional one. It took a few tries to get used to spinning it properly so it would not get stuck, but after that, it was as fun as could be to watch that twister spin around. The rules allow for a few instances in which a player must move backwards or return to home base. As only a spin of 1 or 6 allows a player to move a piece onto the board, it requires some patience. Game play gets long, too. However, it has kept my boys captivated for hours. Can we say great for road trips?
Now, here's where I have to be a straight-shooter. I was disappointed with the book, Hank the Cowdog: The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse ($4.24) by John Erickson, and the CD, Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog ($3). The book I received is number 8 in a series of 54 Hank stories. The concept is ingenious. Hank is the head of security at his ranch located in the Texas panhandle. All the adventures are told from his confused-little-dog perspective, and he has quite an interesting take on things. It gets down-right funny at times.
However, I did not find certain words and themes within the book and the CD (and the cassette tape included for free with the Tornado game) humorous or appropriate for my children. I would like just to leave it at that and not have to delve any deeper; however, I want you to fully understand what I mean and be able to decide for yourselves if Hank the Cowdog will fit the culture of your home. So allow me to explain. Words like stupid, heck, darn, imbecile, shut up, moron, dummy, and gosh are used. There are situations such as a child calling his mother a "dummy" and lyrics to a song that say "swear to the stars above". These may be in the vernacular of a Texas cowdog, but I do not want them modeled to my children, even when they are "just part of the story".
In my opinion, the humor on the CD pushes the envelope, too. The song, A Pox, a Pox on Emily Post, uses a play on words to equate her to the posts within a barbed wire fence and goes on to say, " I thumb my nose at Emily's ghost." In We Don't Give a Hoot, the words "dumb" and "stupid" are used and the singer proclaims that if you don't like his smell, he "will beat you up…." Other songs continue the use of mild expletives, like heck. Though the tunes are catchy and the voices are well-done, I would not allow my children to listen to the CD because of the language and attitudes that are modeled.
Overall, I give Hank the Cowdog one thumb up and one thumb down. The idea is brilliant but is tarnished by the use of inappropriate words and attitudes.