Frankie and Amelia by Cammie McGovern. HarperCollins, 2021. 9780062463326
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Realistic fiction (with animal narrator)
What did you like about the book? Franklin is a homeless Maine coon cat who narrates his quest to find a new person, after several weeks on his own. He is cautiously optimistic when he is taken in by Gus’s family; Gus has autism and has a service dog named Chester. Chester becomes a mentor to Franklin and gives him a lot of insight into human behavior, while helping him find his forever home (Gus’s father is allergic to the cat) with Amelia and her mother. Amelia is one of Gus’s classmates, and she struggles socially, especially since her parents broke up. Amelia loves cats and is a talented artist; she also has a gift for mental math. She is expected to participate on the school’s math team even though it’s hard for her both socially and academically.
Amelia feels that other kids are unkind to her, but she can also be mean to them. When a violent outburst at school leads to her staying home for several days, Amelia’s mother and teachers start to realize that she has a form of autism, and work together to formulate strategies for her to return to school and the math team. Visits from Gus and Chester help, as do her father’s attempts at reestablishing a relationship with her, but the most therapeutic aspect of her stay at home is the bond she develops with Franklin (now nicknamed Frankie). On Chester’s advice, Frankie works very hard to develop a telepathic connection with Amelia and is so proud when he realizes he has been successful (even when she tells him he talks too much). Amelia also begins drawing at a furious pace, creating a graphic novel about Frankie’s adventures before their friendship began, and a happy ending seems assured.
This companion novel to Chester and Gus (2017) is a heartwarming look at human-animal relationships. Frankie is an entertaining narrator, with an earnest ambition to find a happy home and to help his new human; readers will be rooting for him and Amelia from the moment they meet. The feline perspective seems kind of unique (there are lots of books with dog narrators), and McGovern does a great job making it feel authentic, with behavioral details a true cat lover will recognize. From Chester and the various adults, Frankie acquires a somewhat simplistic understanding of autism and how it manifests in both Gus and Amelia, which provides an opportunity for readers to gain some empathy and understanding as well.
Anything you did not like about the book? Not really; it would be refreshing to hear Amelia tell her own story but Frankie’s version will appeal to many.
To whom would you recommend this book? Students who have read Chester and Gus will certainly appreciate being reunited with those characters and meeting their new friends; upper elementary readers of books like Rules, Rain Reign, or Out of My Mind should enjoy it as well.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: November 26, 2021