Happy Monday, guys!
This week, we're reviewing Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern!
Read on for this tale about a dog and his boy, and why it's a heartwarming read!
MMGM is a feature hosted by the fabulous Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Published April 4th 2017 by HarperCollins
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
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.
McGovern introduces us to Chester, a dog who is aspiring to be a service dog. It’s his legacy, and there’s nothing more than he wants to serve his human. But an inability to handle loud sounds prevents him from earning his certification, so he ends up as a family pet/therapy dog for Gus, who has autism. Chester is unsure of his new home at first, but quickly realizes that he has a special bond with Gus.
What’s great about Chester and Gus is that McGovern is upfront about the every day realities of having a family member with autism. She highlights the considerations that should be made for that family member, and how an individual – vis-à-vis Chester in this case – can learn how to be a better advocate for that individual, through necessary trial and error.
There is a definite emphasis on the idea that it’s okay to take that time to learn how to be a better advocate, because it may also positively impact others who are in need of that same knowledge. McGovern is careful to emphasize that there are many who stand to learn from Gus, and his own quiet power in influencing his class to act more cohesively as a whole.
While the emphasis on Chester being able to communicate with Gus may not work for every reader, I personally found it a charming, likable way addition. It reinforces the idea that anials can often understand us in mysterious ways – to us, at any rate! – and also how essential that understanding can be, especially when it comes to the work that service dogs do for those who need them.
Though Chester and Gus does not necessarily delve into the specifics of autism, my personal belief is that it is still a needed addition to the genre. McGovern explores the realities of what it means to be an autism family so thoroughly; it leaves readers with a little more knowledge, and a little more empathy. Highly recommend, full stop.
About the author:
Cammie McGovern is the author of Say What You Will as well as the adult novels Neighborhood Watch, Eye Contact, and The Art of Seeing. Cammie is also one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her husband and three children.