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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Grace For Gus, by Harry Bliss. Harper, 2018. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"Class, don't forget
to contribute to the
Gus Fund ...

Gus needs a friend,
so let's fill up this jar!"

There are few words in this amazing new book by the incomparable Harry Bliss; few are needed. I have 'read' it numerous times and cannot tell you how many new discoveries I have made each time. I know that I do not 'get' all of the references included in these image-filled pages. The beauty of it is that everyone who shares it will come away with something that speaks to their experience with popular culture, the arts, the city of New York, and the nighttime adventures of one young and extremely talented girl with a mission on her mind.

That mission is to raise money for Gus's 'buddy fund'. Gus is the classroom guinea pig. Gus is lonely.  A Gus Buddy Fund jar is in full view of all children in the classroom, and Grace's teacher encourages his students to make a contribution. Grace loves Gus, and formulates a plan for filling the jar with one night's earnings. How will she do it?

She leaves school, heading home for dinner with her dads and some early evening chores. Homework done, she is off to her room and bed. Or is she? We watch carefully as she gathers what she needs and heads out through her bedroom window on that mission. Her first stop is the 14th Street subway station where she busks as the fine violinist she is. Impressive as can be, her violin case provides a place for cash from an appreciative audience. Next stop ... Fifth Avenue. $3 caricatures of passers-by bring further funds, and much entertainment. Finally, she puts her gymnastic skills to work on the subway pole on her return trip home. What a talent this very ordinary looking girl is!

The graphic form is particularly appealing for its many panels, its pacing, and the humor and discoveries to be made as each page is carefully considered. Get out a piece of paper and keep track of all that you see. Then, ask a friend or two to see what they can add to your list. I guarantee that you will have missed a lot. Go on ... go back again and check it out!

And Gus? See for yourself.

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