Middle School: Dog's Best Friend

Book review by
Barbara Lawrence, Common Sense Media
Middle School: Dog's Best Friend Book Poster Image
Rafe starts dog-walking biz in funny, fast-paced tale.

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age 2+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although Rafe doesn't study much, we see him consciously use self-reflection and perseverance to solve problems. 

Positive Messages

When your family's in need, find a way to pitch in. Think before you act. Try to do what's right. If you make a mistake, figure out how to make things right again. Have compassion for others. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rafe's basic instinct is to be good and fair, but like many middle schoolers, he doesn't always practice good judgment. His kindness and compassion, though, show through. When he realizes his family needs money, he contributes from his dog-walking earnings by secretly leaving tips for his mom and sneaking food into the house. This older and wiser Rafe uses introspection to try to make good decisions and to figure out what to do when he realizes he has made the wrong ones. By no means two-dimensional, Rafe is a normal kid who tries to do what's right. 


Some practical jokes and a couple of mild scuffles.


A brief mention of Rafe's mom kissing her boyfriend.




M&M's mentioned for scene setting. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Middle School: Dog's Best Friend is the eighth book in James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts' popular Middle School series. This one features an older and wiser Rafe, who starts a dog-walking business to earn money to buy a Gamebox but also helps his cash-strapped family with some of his earnings. The book is full of laughs but also has lots of positive messages woven throughout. Although Rafe runs into trouble with the new twins in the neighborhood, he finds that ultimately he has to be honest with himself to succeed. 

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What's the story?

In MIDDLE SCHOOL: DOG'S BEST FRIEND, things are calmer In school, but at home, money's tight. Rafe desperately wants a Wormhole Premium Multi-platform Gamebox for Christmas, so he starts his own dog-walking enterprise. Things get a little sticky when twins move into the neighborhood and try to take his customers. When those twins transfer to his school, fireworks ensue. Rafe uses his new maturity and self-reflection to try to solve his business and personal problems, with a little help from his annoying sister. 

Is it any good?

This is as fun and fast-moving as the rest of the Middle School series, but the gross-out factor in this one is turned way down. Rafe has matured, but he still has the sweetness and relatability readers love. Full of illustrations and some comic strips, this is a good choice for both boys and girls. Embedded in the story are Rafe's drawings, wherein he shows his thoughts in comic form and reveals his insecurities about growing up. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of comics in Middle School: Dog's Best Friend. How does drawing his comic strip help Rafe work out issues troubling him? Do you have an artistic outlet that helps you relax and reflect on your life?

  • If you got back at some kids for something you later found out they didn't do, would you come clean and tell the truth or stay quiet and not make waves?

  • Rafe really wants to buy a Gamebox and figures out a way to earn the money for it. How do you earn money in your family?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love humor and middle school stories

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