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The Gus Chronicles: Reflections From an Abused Kid

The Gus Chronicles

An easy-to-read, poignant account of life in out-of-home placements, The Gus Chronicles follows the experiences of Gus E. Studelmeyer, a fictional thirteen-year-old victim of sexual abuse. Gus' character is a composite of the many children author and veteran youth care specialist Charlie Appelstein has worked with over the years. Gus addresses issues such as abuse and neglect, loyalty to family of origin, self-esteem building, sensitivity to the misuse of power, physical restraint, and much more.

The first chapter of The Gus Chronicles won a national literature competition. Today, numerous colleges and out-of-home placement settings throughout the U.S. and Canada use Gus as a training resource.

Review copies are available for college educators. Contact us at

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Praise for The Gus Chronicles

"Every child care and youth care worker needs to step into the thoughts of a youth at risk in order to understand why they act like they do. Charlie Appelstein uses his broad experience in this field - and his considerable creative writing skills - to give a voice to a fictional youth-in-care. By drawing us into his worldview, Gus gives the reader fresh perspectives on what it might be like to live in one of these places we adults call treatment centers. This book will take its place in the training literature along with Mark Kreuger's novels on child care work. Textbooks just can't say it like Gus does."

  • óDr. Larry Brendtro
  • Dept. of Special Education
  • Augustana College, South Dakota

"The Gus Chronicles is wonderful - without a doubt, the best look at residential treatment I have ever read from anybody's perspective."

  • óBarbara O'Toole
  • Executive Director
  • Gillis Center, Missouri

"...Charlie Appelstein has portrayed Gus as a thoroughly believable abused and troubled youth. Gus's recollections of his first day in residential care were so chillingly similar to mine that I quickly forgot he was not real."

  • óDr. John Seita
  • Evaluation and Advocacy Group, Michigan

"Your book has enabled me to adapt my perspectives when dealing with children. I now try to look into their reason for acting out, far more than I used to. I have encouraged my staff to read your book, so that everyone working with the children will be able to see beyond the routine time-outs and restraints. I would like to thank you for writing this book about Gus."

  • óJoe Kovalcheck
  • Senior Staff Counselor
  • Crestwood Program, Pennsylvania

"Deciding to use The Gus Chronicles as the first reading assignment to supplement the text in my Introduction to Psychology courses this fall is the best decision I could have made. As it happens, The Gus Chronicles is a perfect way to introduce some of the major terms and concepts, as well as serious themes and theories, of psychology. After working with Gus, students became enthusiastic and gained confidence in their ability to analyze and apply the psychology concepts it raised in other contexts. The book appeals to a wide range of diverse student learning styles and levels. I am very glad that I decided to adopt Appelstein's book and strongly recommend it as a motivational resource to supplement any psychology text."

  • óClaire Cummings
  • Psychology Instructor
  • Department of Arts and Sciences, Newbury College
  • Brookline, Massachusetts

Excerpts from The Gus Chronicles

Page 11: Attachment

It seems like all the kids here need to fill the void that is created by being separated from their moms. What's tough is that people don't stay too long in places like this. Just when you grow attached to and feel you can trust someone - they leave! It makes it tougher the next time around. I really liked Margaret O'Reilly. No, I loved Margaret O'Reilly. When she left it felt like I was being separated from my mom again. Margaret sent me a card on my birthday; it's still hanging over my bed. If you work with kids who live away from their homes, you might become pretty important to some of them. I know it's a tough job (just ask Frank whom I kicked in the balls), but the longer you hang in the better we do.


Page 12: Negative Labeling

I think every residential facility would be better off if they never used such words as manipulative, lazy, uninvested, controlling, and obnoxious. They're pejorative adjectives. When you label one of us in such a way, you contaminate the waters and no one wants to swim with us anymore.


Page 32: Foster Care

Those of us who end up in foster care and/or residential treatment need to have the right kind of people battling for and with us. People who constantly try to fill our tanks - even in the face of treacherous fireworks. Such people need to truly understand who we are and "where we are coming from." (I love that term - what did they write in the 60's?) Such information enables helpers to form reasonable expectations concerning our behavior and personalities. It enables them to stick by us when the going gets rough. I've seen a lot of kids blow out of foster care because the foster parents over-reacted to the kids behavior. They had no clue what that kid was about - and no one was filling them in. I think, however, foster parents get a bad rap. The problem is in the training and support - or lack thereof. But then again, you can't go blaming the state social service departments, the people in charge of overseeing foster parents, because they'll just cry poverty. I know this, I read the papers. I face it first hand when my yearly clothing allowance gets cut.


Page 54: Feelings

Child care supervisors and trainers should teach their workers to anticipate experiencing a myriad of feelings that this work elicits, feelings such as hate, anger, sexual attraction, frustration, etc. By matter-of-factly normalizing these common feelings, the child care worker will be significantly less distraught when some occur.


Page 77: Friendship

Everyone needs friends. Friends get you through hard times. Friends make you laugh. Friends give you wedgies. Friends loan you money. Friends care about you. When I first got to the Hills, four years ago, I had never had a best friend. There are lots of us who come here never having connected with another kid. This sucks. We wear this failure like a neon light on a black wall.


Page 138: Building Self-Esteem

Abused and neglected kids feel like losers. If you work with such kids, do your best to make them feel like winners. Years after the first Globetrotter took the floor, ex-players would return to visit St. Jude's. "I still have my trophy," I'd hear over and over. And the Globetrotter shirts would be worn until the kids literally busted through them. Some would sleep in them. When a kid does something good, trumpet it. I still remember the kids showing their teachers and parents the banner with their name on it: "Billy Hopkins plays great defense!" "Tommy MacKenty scores six big points!" If a kid played he got his name on that week's banner. My whole orientation to working with troubled kids changed as a result of the Globetrotter experience. I know there's a lot of psychological hocus-pocus out there, but for me, in my work, it all comes down to self-esteem building. The globetrotters demonstrated how far a kid could travel if h began to believe in himself. And if he felt you believed in him.

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