Written and Illustrated by Gus Gordon
Roaring Brook Press, 2013
Once upon a time in a very busy city, on a very busy street, in two very small apartments, lived Herman Schubert…and Rosie Bloom.
The plot in a nutshell: A singer and musician find each other through the power of music
Herman (a crocodile) and Rosie (a deer) live in adjacent apartment buildings in New York City. They love the city, but feel lonely sometimes. Herman is a telemarketer who plays the oboe. Rosie works in a restaurant and sings at a jazz club on Thursdays. One day, Herman overhears Rosie singing and it inspires him to play music on his roof. Rosie hears his music and hums along with it. Then Herman loses his job and the club where Rosie sings closes. For a while, they are both despondent. One day, they go back to their usual routine and when Rosie hears Herman’s music again, she follows the sound of it and they meet. The book ends with them playing and singing together in a jazz club.
Author/illustrator Gus Gordon includes a Mark Twain quote on the acknowledgement page of this terrific book. The quote is about New York and the ability to feel lonely among millions of other people, which is one fundamental element of this story. But this story has other themes, including the power of music, the importance of finding a purpose to your life and the ability to rebound when the world throws you a curve ball. Herman and Rosie are great characters and we care about them because Mr. Gordon shows us who they are and what they want out of life.
The book’s artwork, in mixed media, helps to set this book firmly in New York, with its skylines and busy streets. Much of the artwork is done in collage, with buildings made from newspapers and sidewalks made from maps, and it somehow manages to add both realism and whimsy to the story. The book’s cover resembles a record jacket, with a vinyl album poking out at the top. The city is populated by all different types of animals, which parallels the tremendous diversity to be found in New York City and I admit to going through the book, page by page, just to look at all the different species pictured here. It also helps to underscore the tremendous joy of finding a true kindred spirit in a crowd of millions. This is one that adults are likely to enjoy as much as the kids.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that, even in a big busy city, there’s a way to find someone who is a perfect fit for you.