Andy’s beloved dog Rocket has just passed away and finds himself on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. It’s a land of plentiful treats and toys that would be any dog’s dream. But not all is quite right in these Forever Fields.

Rocket seems to be fading, and some frightening creatures lurk in the shadows. Meanwhile, Andy is at home preparing for high school orientation. He is having a hard time with Rocket’s passing. His family runs an animal shelter and cares for loads of pets, but Rocket was special. On his way to school, Andy is suddenly transported over the Rainbow Bridge. He finds Rocket who is now larger than Andy and can speak in human words. The two of them determine that Rocket must have some unfinished business which is why he is disappearing. Rocket recalls a sister from his litter and wonders what happened to her. Andy and Rocket, with help from some entertaining cat characters, go on a quest to find Rocket’s sister and defeat the dark wraithlike characters who haunt the Forever Fields. The story resolves with a victory, yet room for further adventures remain for a possible sequel.

The full-color illustrations are charming, with adorable dogs and cats who are larger than life. Andy is able to ride Rocket around the Forever Fields. The dog breeds are clearly recognizable (Rocket and his sister are corgis) and the characters have expressive faces. The setting is detailed with many humorous touches: tennis balls grow on trees, bones lie around everywhere, and there’s a water bowl large enough to swim in. The panels vary in size and shape and often reflect the mood of a page, becoming jagged on frightening or dramatic pages. Some dramatic scenes take up an entire page while most pages are broken into multiple panels. 

At first, the idea of a book about a dead dog may be off putting. Some young readers avoid books with animals for fear that the animal will meet some misfortune. However, the fact that this dead dog can still go on adventures with his owner is actually an intriguing concept, especially since the ending of the book seems to indicate that they will continue to do so in the future. Rainbow Bridge presents the idea that pets don’t live forever and it is important to move on when they leave us, but it also honors the important role that animals play in our lives. Andy learns to forgive himself for not going with his family to the vet when Rocket needed to be euthanized. Good lessons are also presented through the animal shelter that Andy’s family operates. They do the best they can for every animal. The wraiths over the Rainbow Bridge are affected by the fact that they did not have loving humans on earth, a good reminder to readers that animals need to be protected.

Overall, this book is winsome with lovable characters and an exciting story. Young readers will enjoy the animal characters and find Andy a sympathetic protagonist. The positive messages about respect for animals and the place of pets in our lives are important and Andy experiences tremendous growth throughout the story. Rainbow Bridge makes a valuable addition to youth graphic novel collections.

Rainbow Bridge
By Steve Orlando, Steve Foxe
Art by Valentina Brancati, Manuel Puppo,  Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Aftershock/Seismic Press, 2021
ISBN: 9781949028676

Publisher Age Rating: grades 7-9

NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)

  • Kelly

    | She/Her Library Information Specialist, South Park Elementary School

    Reviewer

    Kelly Jahng has studied English, history, and French, and taught middle school for sixteen years.She earned a masters in education along the way before changing hats and earning her MLIS at San Jose State University.She now works as the Library Information Specialist at South Park Elementary School in Deerfield, IL.She loves to collaborate with teachers in the school learning commons and to help students create in the makerspace.In her spare time, she loves to travel, enjoy theatre, read and review youth and YA literature, and write the occasional post for various blogs.

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