Monday, November 27, 2017

Chester and Gus - Cammie McGovern

Summary: You meet your person and you connect. You know that you’re meant to be together. Then you learn what that person needs and you do it for them. I can’t imagine anything else quite so fulfilling.

Chester has always wanted to become a service dog. When he fails his certification test, though, it seems like that dream might never come true—until a family adopts 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 him 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 and show he’s the right dog for the job. Because after all, Gus is now his person. (Summary and pic from

My Review: If you know me, you know I love love love dogs.  However, books about dogs can be very hit and miss, I don't like them all, and some are just silly fluff (which isn't bad--seriously, one of my favorite books when I was in elementary school was called Santa Paws, about a stray dog who went around saving everyone at Christmas time.  Awesome when I was a kid, but going back, it's no piece of art, and not something I'd read now.  Just goes to show that a book can be right for you at one part of your life, and not another.  Books are magic.).

That being said, though I love dogs, I am hesitant when I pick up a book about a dog.  It doesn't stop me though, and I will almost always inevitably snatch up a book to see what it's about if there is a dog on the cover.  So when I saw Chester and Gus at the bookstore, I decided to give it a go, and quickly put it on hold at the library.

To my immense pleasure, I could not put this book down.  Narrated from the point of view of a failed service dog, I found Chester's voice to be innocent and pure.  He was very clearly a dog, and he spoke the way I would imagine a dog to speak and think.  He focused on smells and actions and feelings, and was able to grow to understand the autistic boy he lived with.  Obviously he is able to perceive things better than a real dog would, being a character, but I didn't feel that detracted from the realness of the story.  It added to the depth and sincerity for me.

Another thing I loved was Chester's view of autism.  Being a dog with different senses than humans, he's able to connect--and even communicate--with Gus in a way the humans can't.  At first, he's hesitant of Gus's strange ways, but the more time he spends with the boy, the more he understands that certain things are harder for him, and acutely perceives why certain things annoy, bother or intrigue him.  Chester is careful not to touch Gus, careful not to startle him or be in the way.  He's simply there for him when Gus decides to open up to his new friend.

This was a sweet book with a charming narrator, inspired by a moment the author witnessed between her own autistic son and dog.  Dog lovers will particularly like this story, but I think it has enough heart that anyone looking for a sweet tale of friendship between a dog and a boy will enjoy it.

My rating: Four stars

For the sensitive reader: Nothing offensive.

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