Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar Book Poster Image
Rolling Stones guitarist's warm, inspiring childhood memoir.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Mentions of London and some of its sights, various instruments, and the song Malagueña (a song by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, written in 1928, which has become a jazz standard). 

Positive Messages

You can learn a lot from your grandfather. A grandparent can influence what you do when you grow up. Music can change your life. It takes lots of practice to become proficient in something. The relationship between grandparents and grandkids is important. As Keith, who had five grandchildren, writes in the "About Keith Richards" back matter: "The bond, the special bond, between kids and grandparents is unique and should be treasured. This is the story of one of those magical moments. May I be as great a grandfather as Gus was to me." 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gus & Me is Rolling Stones lead guitarist Keith Richards' fond, heartfelt memoir of his granddad, Theodore Augustus Dupree, known as Gus. This beautifully designed picture book portrays their close relationship, fun adventures in London and the countryside, and the key moment in Keith's childhood when Gus gave him his first guitar and taught him how to play. It's an upbeat, moving, cleverly written tale that works well as a story, with expressive pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings by Keith Richards' daughter, Theodora Dupree Richards (named after Gus). The underlying message of the power of grandparents to influence the lives of their grandkids may inspire parents to share their recollections. The book includes back matter with photos and facts "About Keith Richards," including photos of Gus. The hardcover edition includes a CD of Richards reading the story, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

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What's the story?

Keith Richards remembers his granddad Gus' house as "filled with instruments and cake." He adored him and recalls going on long walks with Gus and his dog around London and in the English countryside, with Gus humming and telling stories: "With Gus, you had no idea where you'd end up." Once, Gus, who played piano, violin, saxophone, and guitar, takes Keith to a music store and lets him see the "beehive" of a workshop where men are making repairs, and "right then and there I fell in love with instruments." He longs to learn to play the guitar Gus has at home, high atop his piano, and one day Gus gives it to him and teaches him some chords and technique. Keith was on his way (he even slept with it!), and he never forgot Gus' great gift. 

Is it any good?

GUS & ME is a wonderful slice of memoir that reads like a good picture-book story. It features indelible characters, an intimate portrait of a close, meaningful granddad-grandson relationship, and expressive pen-and-ink-and-watercolor drawings by Keith Richards' daughter, Theodora Richards. It's sweet and poignant without being treacly, and the writing is excellent, capturing the deep emotions Keith felt as a little kid in passages such as this: "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 & Me would make a great read for kids and grandparents to share. And for parents reading it aloud, it might trigger some memories they can share about specific ways they were influenced by their grandparents. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about grandparents. Kids: What special thing do you do with a grandparent? Parents: Is there something one of your grandparents gave you or taught you that affected your path in life? 

  • How do the pictures show how Keith is feeling about Gus and about music and instruments? 

  • Do you play an instrument? Does Gus & Me make you want to learn how to play one? 

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