This was one of the best children's books I've read in awhile. Chester longs to be a service dog but he failed his service dog training due to his fear of loud noises. He ends up getting adopted by a family with an autistic son, Gus. Chester is happy to be adopted and he dearly wants to help Gus but he's not sure how to do that. Sometimes Gus doesn't want to touch him or even have him in the same room. As the story goes along the two become bonded and a touching story unfolds.
This was told from Chester's point of view and I think that was a great story telling technique. It lets children see a simple and kind exploration of how autism can manifest. Dogs love unconditionally, so having a narrator that loves Gus and just accepts his differences is a great way to increase a reader's awareness and understanding of people with autism.
I read this story with an eleven year old and a nine year old and they both were caught up in the plot from the first few pages. It opened up a lot of discussion topics and I think they learned a lot from this. They both loved the story being told from the dog's point of view. We're big fans of dogs here and we spent some time talking about how we thought our dog might feel about things. It led to interesting and enlightening discussions.
I loved every minute of this unique book and so did all of my children. This is a great book for middle school grades in my opinion.
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.
Age Range: 8 - 12 years / Grade Level: 3 - 7