Herman and Rosie, by Gus Gordon

I ordered today’s book from our local independent bookseller based purely on its funky cover. I knew nothing about it, just that I thought it looked supercool. What a score it is, too, it is the most tender story about about two lonely and gentle souls that finally come together and get each other.

And isn’t that the most wonderful feeling? I remember the first moment when I realized that my husband really got me.

He’s someone who is the very definition of confidence. I am not. He’s easy and self-assured. I am not. When we met in the pub where we worked together 14 years ago, it was not love at first sight. I resented him, I think he kind of enjoyed it. We worked side by side for many months before closing down one night and sitting at the bar with a couple of beers and talking and everything I felt I knew about myself was flipped on its end. I’d always felt awkward, self-conscious, skeptical, and sitting with him late into the night talking about ideas and fears and dreams just felt so easy. I didn’t have to convince myself (or him) of anything- I wasn’t hyper aware of my own insecurities for once. He knew me. And because of that, the world felt less aggressive, more welcoming. Less lonely.

Herman and Rosie, by Gus Gordon is my new favorite book to read to the kids.

Herman and Rosie, by Gus Gordon- from www.ameliesbookshelf.com

Herman Shubert and Rosie Bloom live in New York- a beautifully created New York of pencil, watercolor, and print collage- but have never met. They’re surrounded by the bustling city, yet are quite alone.
Herman and Rosie

Herman sells “things” on the phone from his office in a tall building. He enjoys his job because he gets to talk to people whether or not they want to buy these “things.”

Herman lived on the seventh floor. He liked potted plants, playing the oboe, wild boysenberry yogurt, the smell of hot dogs in the winter, and watching films about the ocean.
Herman and Rosie

Rosie washes dishes in an uptown restaurant, but on Thursdays she sings in a jazz club.

Rosie lived on the fifth floor in the building next door. She liked 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.

Herman and RosieSometimes at night, they hear each other- his oboe from the rooftop, her singing from her window. Their songs stick in each other’s heads.

It made him feel like he had eaten honey straight from the jar.

But still they don’t meet. When he loses his job, thereby losing his connection to other people, the busy rhythm of the city begins to feel a lot more hostile to Herman. When Rosie’s club shuts down, the city feels “louder and darker than usual.”

Herman and Rosie

Herman and Rosie do sort of a parallel dance alone in their apartments or walking around the city until they inevitably end up face to face, and the built up tension of the motion of the city combined with their personal anxiety, eases. They find each other. They get each other.
Herman and RosieIt’s a beautiful way to end the book, where each character finds peace in the other, the city feels a little less lonely, a little more embracing.

I love a children’s book that delves into anxiety, fear, or disillusionment. I believe children feel the big feelings, the disappointments, the apprehension, it’s important to give those feelings a representation.

What are your thoughts on picture books that capture the heavy things in life?


12 thoughts on “Herman and Rosie, by Gus Gordon

  1. What a beautiful book! I don’t have kids but I think I’d like to buy this book. I agree with you: children’s books should not be only about happy things. Weird, unusual, unhappy and stressing things happen in everybody’s life, including children’s, so I think it’s always nice to find an interesting and gentle way to portray reality. Great post, thanks for sharing!


    • Wow, can’t believe I didn’t even mention that. Whoops! My six year old son, who’s a sensitive soul, likes it- he could recognize the anxiety building up. My four year old spitfire daughter isn’t quite as enchanted, but she loves the pictures and all things New York.


  2. I’ve had this on my want list, but haven’t seen it in real life. Your review makes me want to move it to the top of the list! I think picture books are and excellent way to approach kids with difficult or heavy issues. PBs can do it softly and gently. And often with a bit of humor.


    • Oh, I agree Rhythm! Picture books are relatable to kids- so when they have the big feelings and they recognize them in their stories, they’re not alone with them. Definitely push this one to the top!


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