Keith Richards w/ Barnaby Harris and Bill Sharpiro; Art by Theodora Richards
Keith Richards’ second book is for children, the story of his grandfather and the first guitar that was given to Keith; the story then of Keith being introduced to music. His grandfather does sound like a cool guy, would take the young Keith for walks through London, to the music shop – and then the promise that he’d give Keith the guitar that sat up on top of the old piano and teach him to play a special song. That would get him started.
And it did. As we know.
But quite why – or how (or whether?) – this works for children today I’m really not sure.
Disconcertingly, for all the talk of this being a Richards family project, Keith seems to have taken about as much care in the making of this story as he did with so many of those songs – just toss off a riff and hand it to someone else to finish. Gus & Me is co-written by two authors. But if there’s a real star here it’s the artwork of Richards’ daughter Theodora – not that her pictures are anything amazing, but they’re a special link, she was named after her great grandfather (Theodore ‘Gus’) and they as much as anything make this a book for kids. And reinforce the family essence around the marketing story.
The text is clunky, despite (or because of?) three pens doing the work. And the story – though somewhat sweet (if you’re a giant music nerd) doesn’t really mean anything much to young kids. At least it doesn’t seem like it would. I’m guessing here, but I just don’t buy it working.
Quite what the relevance of a Rolling Stone gathering some more moss-coloured paper for the bank via this medium really means – in the sense of it being anything other than a strange, silly folly – is beyond me really. And I probably should be the target market: A huge Rolling Stones fan with a young kid, one that I’m certainly encouraging towards music as one of life’s great passions and rewards. Okay, so he’s not quite in the target-range of the book (it says 4-10) and he coped with it when I tried reading directly to him, but I just can’t see this as a book for children. I can’t believe it – even when I wanted to like it.