Monthly Archives: June 2015

Picture Book Reviews- Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

Herman and Rosie TITLE: Herman and Rosie
PUBLISHER: Penguin Group Australia (first published)
A Day with Noodles
Big Pet Day
I am Cow, Hear Me Moo!
My Life & Other Stuff That Went Wrong
My Life & Other Stuff Made up
A story about feeling lonely in a big city and the
magic of music

Herman and Rosie (Book Depository affiliate link)
E-book format (available Aust/NZ only): Herman and Rosie – Gus Gordon (iTunes affiliate)

Herman-and-Rosie-bookmark RATING:  A+
For the clever use of mixed-media.
Facing the challenge of interweaving two
character story lines harmoniously
Creating a sensory feast of sounds, texture,
movement and colour.
The book cover design is of a groovy jazz vinyl record in a slipcover.
The cover is not too busy and has a good contrast of light and dark colours.
Most importantly, it includes both the main two characters of the story with the word ‘and’ between them possibly hinting at the two separate story lines.
The style of the cover is also consistent with the mixed media style of the illustrations within the book.

Gus has included a double spread map of New York (near Governor’s Island) on the end pages.
The map has this lovely dated feel through its old fashioned font and muted down colours.
I like how over the top of the map is free handwriting with arrows pointing to where the two characters live in relation to each other plus a food recommendation.
Like the book cover design, the end pages hint to the mixed media style of illustrations that follow.

Gus is definitely passionate about collage.
I lost count of the types of mixed-media materials used throughout from bits of old music scores to newspaper clippings, mathematical grid paper, New York maps and tickets, splotches and stains from tea, illustrations drawn over old postcards, accounting records, torn clothing patches, photoshop digital images to a combination of water colour, chalk, crayon and lead pencil.
Despite the huge variety of mixed-media materials, Gus is subtle in his approach to the point where you have to take a second glance and look up close to work out what the different material is.
How he mixes the different mixed-media, produces a feeling of old alongside new.
Highlights include-
1. The night time city skylines in cutouts
2. The blend of panels, vignettes, double spreads leading up to a beautiful up close shared scene between Herman and Rosie. A scene with no words but doesn’t require them.
3. The use of colour to emote, from a rich red when Herman first hears a music piece to the dark dirty splotches of water colour in the ‘blue moment’ scene when everything has gone wrong for the characters.
4. I particularly enjoy the line work. It has an ease of movement. Gus sketches in black crayon and is not afraid to show imperfections which adds to the flow of the illustrations. He also has come up with a handwriting font for his speech bubbles and signage.  Very clever indeed!

Who doesn’t love a story that starts with ‘Once upon a time’ and has a character driven plot with two lovable lonely characters that long for friendship.  What can beat that? How about the use of the lovely literary technique of bringing the story full circle with the first and the last page including the words ‘Once upon a time in a very busy city’.
To evoke the sounds and atmosphere of living in a city, Gus uses repetition and onomatopoeia. To tackle the difficult task of interweaving two story lines, Gus uses repetition in having similar length of sentences, describing the characters in similar scenes (ie at work and at home) and have Herman and Rosie follow a similar character arc.

Gus lives in the virtual world here

If you want to read a cool interview with Gus check out this link from the ‘Picture Book Builders’ blog,

Why stop there, here is more of Gus in an interview with ‘Kids’ Book Review’

But wait the best is yet to come. On his website, Gus has a resource page with his interviews and videos. Click on video and scroll to the second video, titled ‘The NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge presents Gus Gordon’. This video is all about the creation of Herman and Rosie from first idea to the formed book. If you are nerdy like me and love finding about processes, this will be a treat!