Chester and Gus
Chester and Gus

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Annotation: Chester, a service dog, is adopted into a family where he becomes a companion to Gus, a ten-year-old boy with nonverbal autism, who initially challenges Chester by requiring a different kind of friendship.
Catalog Number: #160013
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 249 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-06-233069-1 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-1053-X
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-06-233069-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-1053-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016950346
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Smart, dedicated canine Chester dreams of becoming a service dog, but his sensitivity to loud noises dashes his hopes. Instead he is adopted by the family of a nonverbal autistic child to serve as an unofficial therapy dog. Though often confused by Gus, patient Chester perseveres. The theme of human-dog communication is further explored in a sometimes clunky side plot about Chester's trainer, Penny, who is convinced that Chester can learn to read, and even kidnaps him for a short time, believing that he is not reaching his full potential as Gus's therapy dog. Chester narrates the story, providing quiet humor as he attempts to comprehend humans. The canine narrator is a handy way of getting into the mind of a nonverbal character, making the theme of severe autism more approachable. Most middle-grade novels about autism focus on the higher end of the spectrum, so this novel stands out. Though slow and sometimes wooden, this provides children with a way to better understand and empathize with their special-needs peers.
Horn Book
Aspiring service dog Chester (scared of loud noises, he didn't quite pass the test) bonds with fifth grader Gus, allowing Gus, who has autism, to make human connections in new and thrilling ways. Narrated by Chester, the bond between the two is palpable and touching, offering a poignant glance into the depth of dog-and-child love.
Kirkus Reviews
After his fear of loud noises causes him to fail his service dog training, Chester, a supersmart chocolate Lab, becomes a support dog to Gus, a white 10-year-old boy with nonverbal autism. Chester's relationship with his trainer, who's unprofessionally obsessed with teaching him to read, forecasts the book's central heartache: "I loved her so much, but I don't think that's enough for people to understand what you're trying to say." While narrating his own canine views on family and loneliness, Chester also interprets Gus' often misunderstood behaviors. McGovern frequently parallels boy and dog as both struggle to be understood by those they love, and communication becomes paramount when Chester senses a frightening change in Gus and Gus falls victim to a bully. Gus' gradual, subtle interactions with his classmates ring true and sympathetic. However, Chester and Gus also "think-talk" to each other (and possibly to a motherly Jamaican woman) via telepathy, a device that cheapens their bond as much as it forges it. Though telepathy provides convenient access to Gus' thoughts, interests, and feelings, it also perpetuates tired extrasensory tropes and implies that empathizing with autistic people requires a quasi-magical gift. The ostensibly happy resolution to a plot contrivance requires Gus' misfortune, creating more dissonance than satisfaction. A bittersweet, vexing glimpse of a less-portrayed point on the autism spectrum. (Fiction. 9-13)
Publishers Weekly
Chester can-t talk; Gus can, sometimes, but it-s hard for him. Can they communicate and trust each other? Chester is a chocolate lab, and Gus is a fifth grader with autism whose family hopes he-ll be more interactive at school with Chester around. Chester may not have passed his service test (he-s skittish around loud noises), but he-s smart enough to know what -his person- needs, and he does a fine and believable job narrating this book. Always attentive to Gus, the boy-s ever-hopeful parents, and the kids and adults at school, Chester shows Gus-s struggle to convey his desires and be more independent. Chester has some similar difficulties, and McGovern (Just My Luck) emphasizes his eagerness and empathy, as well as his limitations: although Chester-s trainer convinces herself that the dog can read, Chester knows that-s silly. Meanwhile, readers can debate how literally to take the idea that Chester does find a way to talk-at least to those who are willing to listen. Whatever they decide, they-ll be charmed by Chester-s warmth and loyalty. Ages 8-12. Agent: Margaret Riley, William Morris Endeavor. (Apr.)

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Publishers Weekly
ALA Booklist
Horn Book
Kirkus Reviews
Word Count: 46,543
Reading Level: 4.3
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.3 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 189328 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.2 / points:11.0 / quiz:Q71768
Lexile: 680L

Critically acclaimed author Cammie McGovern presents a heartwarming and humorous middle grade novel about the remarkable bond that forms between an aspiring service dog and an autistic boy in need of a friend. “Joyful, inspiring, and completely winning, Chester and Gus is unforgettable,” proclaimed Katherine Applegate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Newbery Medal winner The One and Only Ivan.

Chester has always wanted to become a service dog. When he fails his certification test, though, it seems like that dream will never come true—until a family adopts him. They want him to be a companion for their ten-year-old son, Gus, who has autism. But Gus acts so differently than anyone Chester has ever met. He never wants to pet Chester, and sometimes he doesn’t even want Chester in the room. Chester’s not sure how to help Gus since this isn’t exactly the job he trained for—but he’s determined to figure it out. Because after all, Gus is now his person.

In the spirit of beloved classics like Because of Winn-Dixie, Shiloh, and Old Yeller, Cammie McGovern’s heartfelt novel—told from Chester’s point of view—explores the extraordinary friendship between a child and a dog with a poignant and modern twist.

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