Finding Francois by Gus Gordon

Every new book by Gus Gordon is a treasure. They’re picture books that can be enjoyed by all ages, from new entrants through to Year 8. Gus tugs at your heart-strings and makes you fall in love with his characters. I loved Herman and Rosie (one of Gus’s earlier books) so much that I bought a piece of artwork from the book. Gus’s latest picture book, Finding Francois, is pure perfection and leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy.

Alice Bonnet lives with her grandmother. They’re a great team and they love spending time with each other, whether it is baking, going to the park for lunch, or strolling through the city saying hello to all their friends. There are some days, however, when Alice wishes that she had someone her own size to talk to. So, one morning Alice writes a note, puts it in a bottle and throws it into the river. She hopes that someone will reply and, one day, she receives one from Francois. Their friendship grows through their notes, but then tragedy strikes and the notes stop. As Alice discovers though, good friends are always there when you need them.

Finding Francois is a beautiful picture book that is both sad and uplifting. Gus Gordon has an extraordinary gift of making you feel like his characters are your best friends. I became emotionally invested in Alice’s life within a few pages and I wanted her to find a friend. I love how Gus gives you little details about the characters, like the things that Alice and Francois have in common.

‘Like Alice, Francois loved writing lists and reading books. And drawing mermaids too. (Alice wasn’t expecting that!)

But Francois also loved dancing. And wearing funny hats. And origami. And garlic butter. And flower arranging.’

Relationships and connection are a big part of Gus’s books too. Alice has a really strong relationship with her grandma and they build some wonderful memories together. Alice and Francois build a friendship without meeting each other, but this is a strong relationship too.

Gus’s illustrations are superb! Like Lauren Child and Oliver Jeffers, Gus’s illustrations are a mixed media delight. He uses images cut from old French homewares catalogues to stand in for furniture in the illustrations. One illustration even looks like it has been painted over an old French postcard. As well as meeting Alice, Francois and their families, Gus always makes the background characters come alive. You look at these characters and know that they have their own lives (like the bear in the cheese shop). Even the photos on the walls bring Alice’s ancestors alive.

Everyone needs some Gus Gordon in their life. Grab a copy of Finding Francois from your library or bookshop now.

Books to Treasure: Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon

‘This is a tale about a big city.
It’s a tale of hotdogs and music and the summertime subway breeze.
It’s a tale of singing on rooftops and toffees that stick to your teeth.
But most of all, it’s the tale of Herman and Rosie.’

This wonderful little blurb captures the essence of Gus Gordon’s magnificent new picture book, Herman and Rosie.

From the moment I set eyes on the stunning cover of Herman and Rosie, I fell in love with this book.  Every time I see it I want to read it again. You know that this is a story that Gus loved bringing to life because you can see all the love that has gone into the creation of the book.  Each page is so detailed and filled with different characters.  One of things I love to do in Gus’ books is find all the different characters on each page.  For example, on one page, there’s a bear on a scooter, a fox and a mole in suits, and a mother hippo taking her baby for a walk.   One of the things I especially love about the illustrations in Herman and Rosie is the different media that Gus has used on each page. You can see he has used pencil, crayon, water colour paints, photos of objects, coffee cup stains, bits of newspaper and advertisements, and postcards (among various other bits and pieces).  He’s used all of these different types of media in interesting and imaginative ways to achieve different effects on the page.

The story is all about the two characters of the title and Gus really brings them to life.  I think the reason I love the story so much is because both Herman and Rosie are interesting and quirky characters.  I really like the way that Gus describes them and their likes.  Herman likes ‘pot plants, playing the oboe, wild boysenberry yoghurt, the smell of hotdogs in the winter and watching films about the ocean,’ and Rosie likes ‘pancakes, listening to old jazz records, the summertime subway breeze, toffees that stuck to her teeth, singing on the fire escape…and watching films about the ocean.’  By telling us their likes, we figure out that they’ve got something in common.  It’s a story filled with hope and it and leaves you feeling incredibly happy.  It’s guaranteed to cheer anyone up and put a spring in their step.

Teachers or school librarians who are looking for great picture books for older readers should add Herman and Rosie to their collection.  Older readers will enjoy the story and they’ll love the intricate illustrations.

Herman and Rosie truly is a book to treasure and to read over and over again. It will make your toes tingle and make you feel like you have ‘eaten honey straight from the jar.’

5 out of 5 stars