Books Grey and Golden, Young and Fleeting Non-fiction Wednesday Nonfiction Picture Books Reading Themes

[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Grandfather, a Guitar, and A Rolling Stone: Gus & Me by Keith Richards

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Myra here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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#nfpb2015 Challenge Update: 24 of 25

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

7 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] A Grandfather, a Guitar, and A Rolling Stone: Gus & Me by Keith Richards

  1. I bought this book and read it to my 4 grandchildren – and then they danced to my guitar…

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  2. I’ve been a Rolling Stones fan since I first heard them and yet, I haven’t read this book by Keith Richards. Thanks for fearturing it and reminding me about it. Lucky, today is a library visit day so maybe I can find it.

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  3. trkravtin

    I love this! I didn’t know about the book, so thank you for sharing.

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  4. This book looks great, and it would pair well with other musicians’ picture books I’ve enjoyed: The Beatles Were Fab by Kathleen Krull and Hello! I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri.

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  5. It really does sound like a good story, Myra. It’s interesting to me that Keith Richards even wanted to write a picture book. Perhaps Theodora was the inspiration? Thanks for highlighting it!

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  6. I have seen this one several times and always passed it by. Now I need to find it. Thanks for sharing it.

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  7. I already have all of Bob Dylan’s picture books, so I need to add this one to our collection 🙂

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