Sunday 14 December 2014

Gus & Me The story of my Grandad and my first Guitar

Gus & Me The story of my Grandad and my first Guitar by Keith Richards Illus. by Theodora Richards (Orion/Hachette) CD voiceover James Langton
HB with CD RRP $28.99
ISBN: 978 1 4440 1176 0
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Theodore Augustus Dupree lived with seven daughters near the Seven Sisters Road, in a house that was filled with instruments and cake. Thus begins a charming and nostalgic picture book reflecting on the happy childhood of Rolling Stone and music legend, Keith Richards, who was greatly influenced by his granddad, Gus.

Gus was a talented musician of the piano, violin and saxophone, but more significantly, he could strum the guitar. Keith loved visiting his grandparents' home and Gus loved giving Keith his time. He took him on long walks and hummed all kinds of tunes as they went. He took Keith to the workshop of a London music store and Keith was fascinated, not only by the workers who plucked strings or tested drums as they fixed broken instruments or made new ones, but by the instruments themselves, particularly the guitars going slowly around on a conveyor belt. That's when he fell in love with musical instruments.

Gus kept a guitar on top of the piano but Keith was not tall enough to reach it. He kept trying and one day his granddad handed it to him, showed him the major chords and taught him to play the classic piece "Malague┼ła". This was the stepping stone to his musical career.

Keith's artist daughter, Theodora Richards, has enhanced the simply worded story with lively dashes of colour, some in streams across the page, or e.g., capturing just the legs of Keith and Gus with the family dog, Mr Thompson Wooft. Stars and musical notes abound, and the pen, ink and collage illustrations on the crisp white background have an exhilarating effect. Hand-drawn letters of all sizes have been incorporated, and a couple of pages of these were drawn by Keith himself. Part of the musical score of Malague┼ła is on the inside and back inside covers. Unusually, a loose cover accompanies the picture book giving it a classy touch.

Keith Richards wrote the text with Barnaby Harris and Bill Shapiro and a very warm and loving story has resulted. Many family photos are included, and as an extra bonus, a CD of a reading of the story by actor James Langton, along with a spoken introduction and additional guitar music from Keith.

Gus & Me is an impressive picture book and would make an equally stunning gift.


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