We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2015 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, as well as reading challenges that we have pledged to join this year. Our reading theme for March/April: Grey & Golden, Young & Fleeting – Ruminations on Mortality and Transient Lives.
I have been seeing this book make the rounds among friends from the kidlitosphere. When I found out that the book features the relationship between Keith Richards and his grandfather (perfect for our current reading theme!) I searched for it in our public library and was successful in hunting the book down.
Gus & Me: The Story of my Granddad and My First Guitar
Written by: Keith Richards
Art by: Theodora Richards
Published by: Orion Children’s Books, 2014
Book borrowed from Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
This book is about Keith Richards’ grandfather: Theodore Augustus Dupree. He was a baker, soldier, leader of a dance band and a musician able to play the piano, violin, saxophone, and a guitar. It is no wonder then how Keith acquired his passion and his skill for music.
I was particularly moved by how Keith characterized his relationship with his grandfather. From his description of the many walks they had together, the reader gets a glimpse of the kind of man Gus was. He was the kind of grandfather who would hum “funny little tunes” and would sleep under a tree to look at the night stars.
There was nothing like visiting Gus.
The closer to his house I’d get,
the bigger my smile would grow.
By the time I landed on his doorstep,
I was all teeth.
This memoir was written without artifice – nothing but fond recollections, and a rhythmic quality to the remembrances that permeates through the lyrical lines. The book also traced Keith’s passion for the guitar – and his longing for his grandfather’s guitar sitting on top of his piano:
I took a long look at that guitar
that always sat on top of his piano.
It seemed more beautiful than ever.
All I wanted was to make the strings go
dinka-plink-plink like the men in the store.
But I couldn’t reach it.
“When you’re tall enough, you can have a go,” Gus said.
There were neither maudlin sentiments nor sugar-coated walks down memory-lane. Even Gus’ words of affirmation to Keith when he could finally play Malagueña, said to be a foundational musical piece for learning the guitar, was a simple “I think you’re getting the hang of it.”
Educators would be happy to note that there is a biographical note found at the end of the book. The illustrator, Theodora is Keith Richards’ daughter, named after her grandfather. Admirers of Keith Richards’ art would also be pleased to catch a glimpse of the man behind the music. This is truly a moving book – one that honors a grandfather’s legacy wrapped around the love for music.