Canine best-buds Jack and Rugby go on an overnight trip in the mountains, in a story based on a real-life excursion the authors’ families took together. An opening one-page primer on the two dogs, who are based on the authors’ real-life pets, throws their differences into relief: Jack is a trim and adventurous black Labrador, while Rugby is a giant, cuddly poodle with perpetual bed-head. The story, told from the dogs’ points of view, uses straightforward prose suitable for elementary-school readers. It lays out a meticulous plot about climbing a mountain in the California Sierras, with punctuated asides detailing the dogs’ thoughts and movements. As they venture up the trails, they run, climb and swim. The two explorers approach the great outdoors very differently; Jack bounds into streams and lakes at the first opportunity, as Rugby timidly approaches the water, not wanting to get wet. The next morning, when they come upon a sizable lake near the summit, Rugby finally is brave (and overheated) enough to join Jack in the mountain water. Adventures feel less scary with your best friend, the story concludes, before the two head back down the mountain at sunset. Full-size color photos accompany most pages of text, and smaller, framed snapshots of the dogs at play give the story an appealing family-photo-album feel. The narration effectively shows Jack’s and Rugby’s shifting moods and emotions, which give the characters depth. However, it also sometimes distances readers from the camping experience, as they often engage with the dogs’ interior lives, rather than with the simple pleasures of watching dogs at play.
An often engaging children’s story of a rugged, exhausting day in the mountains with two dog friends.