Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

Published by HarperCollins

Summary:  Since birth, Chester has aspired to be a service dog like his mother was.  He’s got everything it takes, except that he can’t overcome his fear of loud noises.  When a thunderstorm rolls in on the day service dogs are being chosen, Chester is left behind.  Instead, he is sold to a family with an autistic son, Gus.  Although he is brought into the family as a pet, Chester takes it upon himself to serve Gus.  Gus is almost completely nonverbal, but Chester can occasionally communicate with Gus through their thoughts.  Eventually, Chester is allowed to go to school with Gus, where the dog sees things that the humans are missing.  When the principal discovers Chester isn’t a certified therapy dog, he’s barred from the school, unable to help Gus when he’s beaten up by a bully with no witnesses around.  When Gus starts having seizures, his parents are at their wits’ end, but Chester may have the answer to turn the situation around and move Gus’s life in a positive direction.  272 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Chester is funny and lovable, as one would expect of a dog narrator.  His insights about Gus and his parents will give readers a new understanding of severely autistic kids.  I flew through this book in two days.

Cons:  At times, Chester’s intelligence and communication with Gus strained credulity.  Also, I’m pretty sure dogs can’t perceive what’s on a TV screen to pick up the many lessons about humans that Chester does.

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