REVIEW: Frankie and Amelia by Cammie McGovern
A heartfelt companion novel to the critically acclaimed Chester and Gus about inclusivity, autism, friendship, and family, perfect for fans of Sara Pennypacker and Kate DiCamillo.
After being separated from his family, Franklin becomes an independent cat, until he meets a goofy dog named Chester. Chester is a service dog to his person, a boy named Gus, and Chester knows just the girl to be Franklin’s person—Gus’s classmate, Amelia.
Amelia loves cats, but has a harder time with people. Franklin understands her, though, and sees how much they have in common. When Amelia gets into some trouble at school, Franklin wants to help the girl who’s done so much to help him. He’s not sure how, yet, but he’s determined to try.
This sweet and moving novel demonstrates how powerful the bond between pets and people can be, while thoughtfully depicting a neurodivergent tween’s experience.
Dear Ms. McGovern,
A cat on the cover and a cat in the book means I’m probably going to want to read it. But there’s something for dog lovers to enjoy here, too. This is a sweet story of found family and friendship that doesn’t tip too far towards saccharine.
Short chapters tell the first-person (first-cat?) story of how Franklin got scared and ran off thus losing his first family (no abandonment, folks!). Struggling at first, he finally found a friend in a raccoon who helped Franklin learn how to live in the streets but who (Warning!) died in a road accident. One day Franklin notices a boy staring at him through a window and finds a second home where he ultimately can’t stay due to allergies. But through the determined efforts of Gus’s mom, Franklin finds his forever (furrever) home with Amelia and her mom.
Franklin soon learns that Amelia is a bit like Gus but not exactly the same. Both have problems in school – Gus from autism and Amelia from anxiety. Or could Amelia’s condition be something else? As events play out, Franklin and his new family learn other possibilities, ways of coping, and dealing with new family dynamics.
So yes, readers must be willing to accept hearing a story told from a cat’s POV – something that has been done and reviewed a few times before at DA. There is no effort to have Franklin and Chester (Gus’s therapy dog) use limited vocabulary and they end up discussing some complicated subjects as they attempt to help Gus and Amelia navigate a world that isn’t always kind or understanding towards them. At times they (the pets) begin to sound as if they’ve glanced at the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy or at the very least a psychology textbook. This is balanced with their first hand (first paw) observations and them hashing out what might help their children.
Along the way, Franklin learns more about himself, how he views the world, and that in some ways this is similar to how Amelia might see things. Franklin has to drastically alter his assumptions about dogs, too. As he begins to understand what’s going on, this serves to explain it to the reader. There’s an aspect I’m not sure about but I suppose if I’m willing to have a cat narrate a story, I should be willing to go along with other forms of communication. This does make things clearer in a way that could not be done with Franklin’s knowledge alone and tweens might readily accept it as perfectly normal but at times it simplifies things maybe a bit much.
The ending is a HFN which suits the story perfectly. All of Amelia and Gus’s school issues aren’t resolved either which is also realistic. But things are looking up for both of them and Franklin has found his home while also expanding his universe. B