By Keith Richards with Barnaby Harris and Bill Shapiro; illustrated by Theodora Richards (Little Brown and Company, 2014.)
We all get our start somewhere, even legendary rocker Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, and he credits his grandfather. Long considered one of the world’s best guitarists, he says,
“Every time I walk onstage, every time I write a song, every time I reach for a guitar and play a few dinka-plinks for my own grandchildren, I say to myself, Thanks Granddad Thanks Gus!”
Gus & Me is the true story of Keith Richards and his beloved grandfather Theodore Augustus Dupree (Gus). Gus played violin, saxophone and guitar. He had been a soldier, a baker and a leader of a dance band.
Personally I love that this picture book reminds kids that grandparents lived other roles in life prior to becoming grandpa or grandma. It also shares the key roles grandparents can play in a child’s life–including those of role model, mentor and favorite companion.
Keith shares the happy anticipation he felt while growing up in Dartford, England not far from Gus.
“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, Keith and the dog Mr. Thompson Wooft would dodge the “honey-do list” presented by Gus’s wife and make a bee-line for the door. They walked miles and miles through towns and countryside, Gus humming tunes all the while.
One such ramble took them too far to return home for the night, so they slept under a tree.
Another took them all the way to London and an instrument shop churning with activity.
“Violins hung from the ceiling by wires.
Horns clung to the walls.
Men in long brown coats
Fixed broken instruments and built new ones.”
All the hubbub and excitement of the shops seemed to flip a switch—Keith Richards was in love with instruments.
As promised, Gus handed Keith his first guitar just a few years later when he was deemed big enough. “When you learn how to play ‘Malaguena,’ you can play anything,” he said.
“Dinka-plink dinka-plink dinka-plink.”
(An audio CD is enclosed that includes a brief excerpt of the song “Malaguena” by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona.)
The illustrations in this picture book are by Keith Richards’ daughter Theodora Dupree Richards, named after her great-grandfather Gus. They are an interesting mix of deep black line drawings and bright washes of color. Theodora interviewed her father, traveled to England and consulted family photos in her research.
Keith Richards has five children and five grandchildren. (And a collection of over 350 guitars!) It’s great fun to see this non-traditional grandfather in loving photos with his grandkids. At the end of the book he shares—
“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.”
Your comments are always welcome–Did you have a special bond with a grandparent in your life? Was your life influenced in some significant way?
This book review was of my own copy of the book. Images from book were photographed by me. The majority of Positive Aging picture books reviewed here are donated to literature projects in the city of Detroit.
Read another review at Rollingstones magazine here.
Find more grandfathers in Positive Aging picture books: