________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 14 . . . . December 4, 2009


Rock Dogs. (Sports Stories).

Steven Barwin.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2009.
104 pp., pbk. & hc., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55277-027-6(pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-028-3 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Rock climb-Juvenile fiction.
Fathers and sons-Juvenile fiction.
Survival skills-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

*** /4


Noah stared down the dizzying drop below him and smiled. He gripped a curved plastic hold bolted into the rock wall above him and used it to lift himself up.

"We playing tag or what?" The voice of Noah's best friend, Lucas, broke his concentration.

"We have to wait for TY. He's It."

"Yeah, but he's taking forever."

Noah reached up and touched the ceiling of Kelsey's Rock Climbing Club with one finger. He scanned the climbing wall that wrapped around the club, but couldn't see Ty. He figured Ty must be at the bottom of the wall, struck in a cluster of climbers.

It would take him minutes to catch up.

Noah admired the view from the top. He loved it up there. Scattered all over the wall were holds in different colours and shapes.


Noah, Lucas and Tyler are friends and members of a rock climbing club. Eric, another member, is always in competition with Noah often to the detriment of the team. In a competition, their team, the Rock Dogs, tie their previous rivals with the dangerous moves of Noah and Eric who are fearless on the rock. Their coach, in an attempt to build the team, offers to take everyone, plus a parent for each climber, to Rattlesnake Point.

     Noah's father has just started his own business which is taking up all his family time. Noah is disappointed that his father is preoccupied and misses all his competitions. His friend, Lucas, tells of his parents' divorce, and it looks like Noah's family is going the same way. Much to Noah's surprise, his father turns up just before the climbing trip to Rattlesnake Point so that Noah can also go. On the trip, Noah's father is busy discussing business with the adult who came with Eric. Noah thinks it is Eric's father, but Eric says his father is too busy to come along and that it is an associate in the father's business. Eric and Noah decide to race to the climbing rock and get lost in the process. They encounter a snake, and, after Eric saves Noah from a fall off a rock, Eric falls and hurts his ankle. When the boys are rescued, the trip continues and they, although not good friends, learn to tolerate each other.

     The story covers three areas: family relationships, unhealthy team competition and rock climbing. Noah's family is in some distress as the father is taken up with his business. The mother is a relatively weak character in that her main role is to intercede between father and son and remind the father of his responsibility toward his son. She would do anything for Noah, but, because of her fear of heights, she doesn't go on the climbing trip. The competition between Eric and Noah is not good for the team and provides some anxious moments on the trip. Eric's father is similar to Noah's in that he doesn't take any time to be with his son. The characters are not developed so that the reader tends to see them as one-dimensional and doesn't get a picture of the characters outside of this situation.

     Rock climbing is developed both as a sport and personal interest. There is a glossary of terms included at the end of the book. The description would be of interest to adolescents who enjoy this activity or sports in general. The climbing and equipment are written about in some detail and are interesting to read. The story is divided into 13 chapters with about five or six pages per chapter. This makes the novel appropriate for the recommended ages.

     The strength of the novel is in the plot with the rivalry between the boys and the information about rock climbing. Although somewhat predictable, the story is enjoyable and very suitable for the intended readers. Language is appropriate, and the vocabulary is suitable even for more reluctant readers. Rock Dogs would be a good read, especially for those young people who like sport stories and rock climbing. Because of the limited number of books on this topic, Rock Dogs would be a good choice for school and public libraries as well as a good selection for boys and sport fans. It would be suitable as a read-aloud selection or small group study.


Deborah Mervold, an educator from Shellbrook, SK, is presently employed by the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST), working in the areas of faculty training and program development.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.