Review Detail

Kids Fiction 1967
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
The Laika is on mission Stepping Stone, traveling outside the solar system to set up a new planet. In addition to the human crew, animals, and plants, there are some very loyal dogs, because where there are humans, there HAVE to be dogs! Since the journey is so long, everyone goes into hibernation including our hero, Lopside, Great Dane Daisy, natural leader and captain's assistant Champion, and talented engineer Bug. Lopside is a bit apprehensive, but his human Roro tells him he is a good dog, and he follows her orders. When the dogs wake up, however, there is no sign of the humans, and their ship is in danger. The dogs work hard to get it fixed and to come up with the best plan they can to get the ship to their designated planet so that the mission can continue. The dogs manage to navigate the intricacies of space travel, like air locks, decompression chambers, and travel pods, even though they have no support from the command center, who tell them that they are good dogs but offer no attempts to rescue them! Wanting the mission to succeed, and wanting to rescue their humans if at all possible, the dogs make repairs, decide what functions of the space ship can retain power, and do the best they can with limited resources. Will the "Barkonauts" be able to reach their target and save their humans?
Good Points
Writing from the point of view of a dog is a very fine balance, and Van Eekhout does a great job. It helps that there is technology that allows humans to translate dog thoughts into human language, and that the dogs are very well trained in so many aspects of space travel. They face dangers bravely and never give up.

It's also hard to give dogs human qualities that make them sympathetic characters, but this is done well. Lopside has all of the scrappiness of a mixed breed, Champion is very regal, and Daisy... like people, dogs are sometimes a little scatterbrained as well. While it is a little hard to believe that dogs, lacking thumbs, would be able to do a lot of the work required for space flight, I had no problems believing that they could do the work. Lopside's tool belt is very useful... and cute as well!

There are a growing number of space adventures books (as opposed to science fiction/Dystopian books where the aliens invade and everything goes poorly!), so this will be an excellent addition to the Voyagers series (various authors), Kraatz's Space Runners, and Liss' Randoms. The fact that it has such an adorable dog on the cover will make this appealing to my readers who might not normally pick up space travel books but will read anything about dogs. I know just the student to whom I will hand this first!
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