It's time again for our Friday series Recommended Reads, when we review books or series written for children or young adults. Today we take a look at the Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson.
Hank the Cowdog (series)
Adult Themes: None. A rootin’, tootin’ good time for all cowpokes.
Concept: The Hank series is narrated by its hero Hank, the self-titled Head of Ranch Security on a ranch in Texas. Hank will be the first to tell you that a cowdog’s job is tough, but someone’s got to protect the chickens, keep Pete the Barn Cat in line, supervise his dimwitted deputy Drover, and chase dangerous prowlers like badgers off the property. Of course, as readers will quickly discover, Hank barks better than he bites. His operations often result in blunders, like mixing up porcupine tracks with raccoon tracks and ending up with a snout full of quills, or finding that he has attacked the milk cow because she looked like a horned monster in the dark. None of this diminishes his dignity or conviction that he is the only one standing between the ranch and ruin, however, and he nobly, if a bit bumblingly, meets danger head on.
Our Take: Erickson, who worked as a ranch cowboy in Oklahoma and Texas in his youth, wrote the first Hank the Cowdog book in 1982. Since then, he has penned more than 50 more books about Hank’s exploits. This is great news, because after an introduction to Hank, kids won’t be able to get enough of the humor and adventure in this series. The books are filled with dramatic irony – Hank’s perspective on what’s going on is often a little different than his human counterparts’ interpretations. For example, in the first book in the series, Hank enters a yapping match with some distant coyotes one night. When Loper, the owner of the ranch, bellows about the noise, Hank is gratified that Loper seems to agree with him about the noise. He continues barking, and when Loper yells, “Shut up that yapping, you idiot!” Hank, never suspecting that Loper is hollering at him, reflects that Loper must not realize that there is more than one coyote out there. Kids will find the books hysterically funny, and, so, for that matter, will adults. Hank’s highfalutin but rather misguided references (like giving his opponent a "coop de grass") and explanations (such as informing readers that M.O. stands for Modus of Operationous) will leave parents snickering as they read aloud at bedtime.
Good to Know: Yeehaw! Odyssey Pictures announced in 2011 that they were ready to begin work on an animated Hank the Cowdog movie! It’s still in development, but should be hitting the silver screen before soon. For those who just can’t wait that dern long, the official Hank the Cowdog website is always open for business. Visit to learn more about the books and their author as well as to join Hank’s Security Force, play Hank-themed games, meet the ranch gang, view Sally May’s recipes, browse the official shop, enter contests, follow Hank on Facebook and Twitter… boy howdy! Get your tail over there!