In this tale told entirely in dialogue, most along the lines of “See you later, Alligator,” Miles and Spike pay a visit to the woods, to the consternation of the animals that live there.
The two buddies, anthropomorphic dogs wearing boots and toting a blue backpack, seem to have come just to pillage the forest of its resources: wood, flowers, corn (an odd find in the woods), worms, and blueberries. With each new item, the backpack bulges a little more, and Miles and Spike leave in their wake a host of angry critters, their tossed-off, la-dee-da comments only adding fuel to the fire: “Ta-ta for now, COW!” “Peace out, RAINBOW TROUT!” The two dogs and the animal(s) they are speaking to are depicted in full color, while brilliantly colored monochromatic backgrounds allow Long to show the previously ticked-off animals and the devastation left behind (readers will expect the Lorax to pop out at any moment). Finally, Miles and Spike are unable to hoist the backpack and, thirsty from the tussle, go to fill up their canteens. They demand “Clear the water, OTTER!”—and the angry animals band together to deliver the titular message. The empty landscape speaks volumes, and the two admit “We acted dumb, chum.” They try again, unpacking the backpack and inviting the animals to accompany them to a new patch of forest (the trout is carried in a fishbowl), where they share their bounty, smiles and friendship replacing angry glares.
An environmental message that goes down easily amid the cartoony cast. (Picture book. 5-8)