A bittersweet, vexing glimpse of a less-portrayed point on the autism spectrum.

READ REVIEW

CHESTER AND GUS

After his fear of loud noises causes him to fail his service dog training, Chester, a supersmart chocolate Lab, becomes a support dog to Gus, a white 10-year-old boy with nonverbal autism.

Chester’s relationship with his trainer, who’s unprofessionally obsessed with teaching him to read, forecasts the book’s central heartache: “I loved her so much, but I don’t think that’s enough for people to understand what you’re trying to say.” While narrating his own canine views on family and loneliness, Chester also interprets Gus’ often misunderstood behaviors. McGovern frequently parallels boy and dog as both struggle to be understood by those they love, and communication becomes paramount when Chester senses a frightening change in Gus and Gus falls victim to a bully. Gus’ gradual, subtle interactions with his classmates ring true and sympathetic. However, Chester and Gus also “think-talk” to each other (and possibly to a motherly Jamaican woman) via telepathy, a device that cheapens their bond as much as it forges it. Though telepathy provides convenient access to Gus’ thoughts, interests, and feelings, it also perpetuates tired extrasensory tropes and implies that empathizing with autistic people requires a quasi-magical gift. The ostensibly happy resolution to a plot contrivance requires Gus’ misfortune, creating more dissonance than satisfaction.

A bittersweet, vexing glimpse of a less-portrayed point on the autism spectrum. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233068-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Moving and poetic.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit...

NUMBER THE STARS

The author of the Anastasia books as well as more serious fiction (Rabble Starkey, 1987) offers her first historical fiction—a story about the escape of the Jews from Denmark in 1943.

Five years younger than Lisa in Carol Matas' Lisa's War (1989), Annemarie Johansen has, at 10, known three years of Nazi occupation. Though ever cautious and fearful of the ubiquitous soldiers, she is largely unaware of the extent of the danger around her; the Resistance kept even its participants safer by telling them as little as possible, and Annemarie has never been told that her older sister Lise died in its service. When the Germans plan to round up the Jews, the Johansens take in Annemarie's friend, Ellen Rosen, and pretend she is their daughter; later, they travel to Uncle Hendrik's house on the coast, where the Rosens and other Jews are transported by fishing boat to Sweden. Apart from Lise's offstage death, there is little violence here; like Annemarie, the reader is protected from the full implications of events—but will be caught up in the suspense and menace of several encounters with soldiers and in Annemarie's courageous run as courier on the night of the escape. The book concludes with the Jews' return, after the war, to homes well kept for them by their neighbors.

A deftly told story that dramatizes how Danes appointed themselves bodyguards—not only for their king, who was in the habit of riding alone in Copenhagen, but for their Jews. (Historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547577095

Page Count: 156

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1989

Did you like this book?

more