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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar, written by Keith Richards, with Barnaby Harris and Bill Shapiro and illustrated by Theordora Richards. Megan Tingley Books, Little, Brown and Company. Hachette, 2014. $20.00 ages 6 and up

"We'd walk for miles.
We'd walk through towns.
and we'd walk through the
countryside ...
and Gus, he would hum
every step of the way.
He'd hum whole symphonies
as we strolled from one
village to the next.
He'd hum funny little
tunes ... "

I am not always a fan of  'celebrity' books. I AM a huge fan of Keith Richards' lovely and heartwarming story of his grandfather Gus, who 'turned him on to music.' When Keith's fifth grandchild Otto was born, his birth awakened the grandfather to the fact that grandparents can have a tremendous impact on a child's life. His grandfather had certainly made a difference to his.

I love listening to Keith's voice as he reads the text on a CD that is included in the back of the book.
The voice is so personal and relaxed, making it obvious to listeners how much he enjoys sharing it.  His love of his musical grandfather is evident and heartwarming ...

"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."

Gus was a musician, and a role model for his young grandson. They walked and talked; and one day, they walked right into a musical workshop where men were testing guitar strings. It held an immediate and lifelong fascination for the young boy. After that visit, the two returned to Gus's house where a guitar sat on top of the piano. Gus promised his grandson that he could 'have a go' when he was tall enough to get it down. I'll bet growing taller never seemed more tedious for Keith.

Then one day, Gus handed him the guitar and proceeded to teach him what he was ready to learn. He gave good advice:

"When you learn to play 'Malaguena'" he told me,
 "you can play anything.""

He was absolutely right!

Keith Richards' daughter Theodora (named for her great-grandfather Theodore Augustus Dupree) did the artwork in pen, ink and collage after visiting her father's family home in Dartford, England and seeing family and historical photos from her father's childhood.

His first book for children is a warm and wonderful family story. There is magic in the music, and in the telling. We are blessed to be able to share it!

A biographical note about the famed guitarist is in back matter; it adds charm and fascinating information. In a final note, he tells his audience:

"The bond, the special bond, between kids and grandparents is unique and should be treasured. This is a story of one of those magical moments. May I be as great a grandfather as Gus was to me."

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