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.
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.