Hank the Cowdog Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Hank the Cowdog Series Book Poster Image
Ranch dog is head of security in fun cowboy-themed series.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's almost no academic content in these books, and lessons about persevering or doing the right thing get muddled in the attempts at witty "cowboy" dialogue.

Positive Messages

Hank tries to get to the bottom of mysteries, and most of the dialogue is good-natured fun, although there's a good amount of sarcasm in these books.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hank and his friends keep an eye on the place, and even though he can be domineering and abrupt, he does try to do the right thing. The series has a lot of fun and adventuring (along with oh-so-serious ranch security), so sometimes they don't try too hard. 

Violence & Scariness

Sometimes Hank gets in dangerous situations, but he usually makes them seem more dramatic than they really are.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that John R. Erickson's Hank the Cowdog series offers readers a glimpse into the mind of a dog who thinks he's the hard-hitting head of ranch security. In reality, Hank is a dog. On a ranch. With no responsibilities. He gets into dangerous situations, but Hank tends to embellish: He's rarely in real danger. Hank narrates the books, and his running monologue is full of high-intensity scatterbrained thoughts, for example he's constantly surprised by a squirrel, then interrogating it, then quickly moving along. These are fun stories, but they're seriously muddled by "cowpoke" dialogue, often to the point of making the plot hard to follow. Reading aloud might be a better way to read these, where voices and inflection make a difference.

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What's the story?

Old-timey fun and cowboy talk abound in the HANK THE COWDOG series, with a ranch full of animals solving mysteries, going on adventures, and trying to outwit one another. Hank, the self-proclaimed head of ranch security, takes it upon himself to interrogate the bumbling dogs, cheeky cats, and random ranch animals he finds suspicious. He has a lot going on in this series -- trying to prove his innocence, rescue a friend, make his way home after being left in town, helping an orphaned raccoon stay out of trouble -- and Hank's brash pseudo-authority is front and center. Of course, Hank himself isn't the sharpest tool in the shed. ...

Is it any good?

This cowboy-flavored series is better read aloud than alone. The stories and word choices in each book are funny and interesting for young readers, but the sections of dialogue -- both internal and external -- are meandering and tough to follow. The Hank the Cowdog series is written just as you'd expect a slightly dim but egotistical dog-aspiring-to-be-a-cowboy would speak, and the animals' adventures are both fun and funny. So, if your reader likes to get in character, these are good books to read aloud.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Hank talks in the Hank the Cowdog series. What other books have animals acting and talking like people?

  • When Hank talks about being in danger, does it seem like he's exaggerating, or is he being truthful? How can you tell the difference?

  • Hank the Cowdog bulldozes his way through conversations; how do you deal with people who do that?

Book details

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