Monday, August 31, 2009

Maverick Books - a TOS Homeschool Crew Review

I am always thrilled when I find products that give us opportunities to experience imaginative play. Children on the autism spectrum pretty much always need experience in imaginitive play. Our family, like many families who include a child on the autism spectrum, need fun resources that we can do together. Maverick Books offers products the whole family can enjoy together.

Maverick Books is one of those companies that is new to me. Maverick Books offers books, music, storytelling CDs, games, posters, and t-shirts based upon the characters created by author John Ericson. Ericson created the character, Hank, the cowdog, "the famed head of ranch security" and he's written a series of books about Hank's mystery adventures, in addition to producing audio CDs that sound like old-time radio shows with sound effects and sometimes comical voices for each of the characters. Maverick Books has created some games to fit the Hank theme as well.

Maverick Books sent us book #25, The Case of the One Eyed Killer Stud Horse ($4.24/paperback); a board game called Hank's Tornado Game ($12.99); and the audio CD, Tales and Tunes, ($3.00) .

My 12 year old and 10 year old typically developing children think Hank is a bit too young for them based on the cover (arg) and my 10 year old on the autism spectrum is not quite ready for the stories, yet. I am a 40-something mom who thinks The Case of the One Eyed Killer Stud Horse is hilarious!

I predict that Hank's stories will be a wonderful resource for individuals with autism because of the level of perspective taking that is involved in understanding the tales. Hank's stories are told through his eyes, and Hank, remember, is a dog. He misunderstands the words and actions of other characters in the stories, and they misunderstand his words and actions, sometimes. Hank often reminds me of Deputy Barney Fife! The stories are quite entertaining, and I laughed out loud several times while reading the book and when listening to the Tales and Tunes CD while running errands by myself. Ericson has a fun sense of humor and he is incredibly talented at telling tales using a different voice for each character.

I tried to use the Tales and Tunes CD on one of our long car trips, but my younger princess would not tolerate it. She does not process auditory information fast enough to grasp even excerpts of stories on CD, and a CD like this one frustrates her. The CD is more tales than tunes.

I would rather try a read aloud when she is ready for some more involved perspective taking from a dog's point of view, and Maverick Books offers a huge series for us when we are ready. The stories are just plain fun -- and the opportunities for predicting what might happen next, and for self-to-text and text-to-self comparisons as part of literacy development and development of self are big. These stories are meant to be ENJOYED and not picked apart for perspective taking and literacy comparisons, and (note to self) I will need to self-monitor when we use them so that I don't ruin the enjoyment factor while trying to get some prediction and some perspective taking value from them.

Our favorite item is the game. (!!!!!!) We have all thumbs up from sibs and a BFF for Hank's Tornado Game.

The girls (my daughter and her bff) wrote some notes for me to include in my review, explaining that the game is easy to assemble and put away. All of the pieces fit inside the folding frame of the game. The girls said that getting tornadoes is fun and that the rules are easy to remember and follow, and that this is a good game for a combination of older kids and younger ones to play together, because it's exciting for all of them while not being too challenging for the younger ones. The girls told me the dog characters are cute! ;) They told me that they don't spin the spinner too hard because it takes too long for it to stop, and that they think the sound of the spinner spinning is a little annoying. I didn't think the sound is annoying....

A heads up: Hank uses some words that we avoided when our children were smaller. When my children were little, they thought that the "s" word was "stupid" and the "d" word was "dumb". We tried very hard to avoid using those words (and a few others), and as the children have grown older and understand appropriateness more, we have relaxed a little. The stories are fun, and if you have a problem with "dadgum" and "stupid", you may choose to use the books for your read-alouds so that you can choose to skip the words, or explain them to your listeners.

Overall, Hank the Cowdog is a lot of fun!

For reviews of these products by my Crewmates, click HERE.

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