Master the RULES OF THE RUFF in This Middle-Grade Novel


Twelve-year-old Jessie is in for a long summer at her aunt and uncle’s house. Her cousin Ann has a snotty new best friend, which leaves Jessie all alone. But Jessie is industrious, and—not content with being ignored all summer—she convinces Wes, a grouchy neighborhood dog walker, to take her on as his apprentice.

Sure, dog walking turns out to be harder than she expected, but she has Wes’s dog-walking code, the Rules of the Ruff, to guide her, and soon she’s wrangling her very own pack. But when a charismatic rival dog walker moves to town, she quickly snatches up most of Wes’s business—and Jessie decides she isn’t going to take this defeat with her tail between her legs.

Rules of the ruff

Summary: Rules of the Ruff

In this slice-of-life middle grade novel, we follow twelve-year-old Jessie who’s staying at her cousin, Ann’s for the summer. Jessie and Ann have grown apart since Ann became friends with a popular girl. Jessie throws herself into trying to score a dog-walking apprenticeship with a grumpy dog-walker, Wes. Things are going well until a new dog-walker moves into town. Jessie’s also dealing with a crush on a new boy in town and of course her nemesis, Ann’s friend.

The Good

Rules of the Ruff is a really smart novel with a quick-witted protagonist. There are also a lot of interesting family dynamics between Jessie, her dad, her aunt, and cousin. The dog-walking antics are funny and vividly written.

I enjoyed watching Jessie work through her emotions as well as process the morals of seeking revenge. Best of all, dog lovers will enjoy learning the rules of the ruff and seeing Jessie wrangle her pack.

The Bad

Jessie’s relationship with Wes was at times uncomfortable for me. I wouldn’t want my twelve-year-old niece hanging out unsupervised with an older man. I also thought there was a lot of adult drama for a middle-grade book. Between Wes’s love triangle and the dog-walker competition drama, it felt like a lot. I also was not a fan of Max’s relationship with either of the girls. Just a bit too heavy on the creepy note for me.

Rules of the Ruff is perfect for active kids, dog lovers, and kids bridging the gap between childhood and teenage-hood. Click To Tweet


I liked this one; the audio narration is also really good. Rules of the Ruff is perfect for active kids, dog lovers, and kids bridging the gap between childhood and teenage-hood. I only wish it featured less problematic relationships among kids and between kids and adults.

Rules of the Ruff

More Book Reviews

Have you read this book or anything by Heidi Lang? What did you think? What are your favorite dog-centered books? I’d love to know!

– Afoma

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