Herman and Rosie – a musical match made in the city

Guaranteed to charm, this is the story of two lonely souls who find friendship in the bustling city of New York.

Herman and Rosie is the latest from Australian author Gus Gordon.

Meet Herman – he likes pot plants, playing the oboe, wild boysenberry yoghurt and watching films about the ocean. Meet Rosie – she likes pancakes, listening to old jazz records, toffees that stick to her teeth and watching films about the ocean. Herman and Rosie go about their lives. They have their small, everyday pleasures but they’re both lonely. When Herman loses his job and the jazz club Rosie sings at in the evenings closes down, both characters lose their ‘joie de vivre’ – even watching their respective Jacques Cousteau collections doesn’t cheer them up. But then something magical happens… Something musical… And suddenly these two city-dwellers aren’t so lonely anymore.

Herman and Rosie manages the precarious balance between being both heartbreaking and uplifting. New York is the perfect backdrop for these two lonely characters. Gordon’s beautiful illustrations capture the grittiness of city living with subtle mixed-media montages providing layers of interest. For example, some illustrations appear over a background of newspaper, graph paper or postcards complete with postmarks. The musical element of the story – Herman’s oboe playing and Rosie’s singing, provides warmth, emotion and a fabulous contrast to the harsh city.

I particularly like the emphasis on simple pleasures and knowing what makes us happy. With his short introduction to each character, Gordon quickly paints a vivid and endearing picture of Herman and Rosie. It’s a nice reminder for both children and parents to recognise and appreciate the small things that make us happy, whether that be the “smell of hotdogs in the winter” (Herman) or the “summertime subway breeze” (Rosie), and how good it is to share pleasures with others. As Herman says “…it made him feel like he had eaten honey straight from the jar.” Isn’t that lovely?!

Herman and Rosie is suitable for children aged five and over. It’s available online at Fishpond.

Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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