Ten things you didn’t know about Gus Gordon - feature for Off The Shelf magazine (2012)

1. I have a strange and particularly un-useful ability to hop at great speed.

2. I no longer own a spleen. When I was nine I climbed a windmill on our farm and was pushing the fan around when I lost my balance and fell off. When I came to I couldn’t remember a thing - I just felt weird. My brother who witnessed the whole event neglected (forgot) to tell our parents and I came within minutes of dying from internal bleeding. We just made it to a hospital on time where I had a splenectomy (that’s a fancy term for tossing out one’s spleen). My brother did helpfully push my bike home.

3. When I left school I worked as a stockman on cattle stations in the gulf of Queensland and the Northern Territory. I spent most of the daytime on horseback mustering ridiculously large mobs of cattle and the nights sleeping in a swag under the stars. It was a real adventure - lots of fun. It was also the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. Somehow I still found time to draw.

4. My brother is severely handicapped. He is thirty six years old but mentally his age is about four. I am the oldest of four boys and he is the youngest. My parents had an enormously tough time raising him, especially in the early years. Thankfully he is such a happy boy and it was a good thing we were a large family that could share the load. I think he has helped us all keep everything in perspective.

5. We have a cat called Pippin named after a hobbit from Lord of The Rings.

6. My wife invented three board games for pre schoolers that sell around the world. What begun as a fun learning game at home for our young kids turned into the first board game, Bright Buttons. Then came Clever Creatures and finally Little Explorers. I had no idea she was so creative!

7. My favourite poem is ‘My Shoe’ by Michael Leunig.

 Since I hurt my pendulum, my life is all erratic.

 The parrot, who was cordial, is now transmitting static.

 The carpet died, a palm collapsed, the cat keeps doing poo.

 The only thing that keeps me sane is talking to my shoe. 

8. I have a penchant for sandwiches. Vegemite and cheese is a killer combo but ham, cheese and avocado is my favourite.

9. My books all have soundtracks. Music is a huge passion of mine. When I am working on a new book there are always songs, new and old, that creep into my subconscious, demanding to be played. These songs fit together with the narrative and even help the story telling process. They just seem to suit the story’s tone or soul. I played a lot of The Blue Nile with Herman and Rosie. Matt Pond PA and Pernice Brothers also got a lot of playing time. I can’t imagine how I could complete a book without music.

10. I feel more alive in New York than just about any place I have ever been.



Five books that changed me (Sydney Morning Herald article 2012)

Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Graham (illustrated by Arthur Rackham)

I loved this book as a kid. Especially the edition with Rackham’s beautifully detailed illustrations. I keep coming back to it. It’s the reason I write anthropomorphically. Ratty, Toad, Badger and Mole have such wonderfully fully formed personalities - flaws and all. Graham was very good at putting the reader right where he wanted - in a boat, on a motorcycle or having a picnic in the sun on the riverbank. This book still stands out after all these years.

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This is one of those books where I remember how I felt reading it. Mostly, I felt excited. It is very much a boy’s book and consequently I have many childhood memories that are associated with it in some form. I often imagined myself as Tom Sawyer or Huck floating down the Mississippi with hours to kill. It was also the first book where I can recall being aware of the writing and recognising that this was a valuable skill.

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Some books are much more visual than others and this book is particularly memorable in that regard. Before The Hobbit, I had never read a story so big, so scary, so hobbity. Tolkien was a master of imagined worlds and I spent many, many hours getting lost. Plus the maps are cool.

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

When I first begun to read this book I wondered where on earth it was going. Bernières spends a good deal of time introducing the reader to the central characters and it comes together agonisingly slowly but when it does the payoff is sweet. It’s a testament to the power of good character writing. The protagonist shouldn’t be the only well written character.

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes

This is only a short story but it’s a beauty. It has all the themes. Love, fear, war, trust, hatred, retribution. I have no idea how Hughes was able to make this unlikely story about a giant metal man work as it is as outlandish as it is ambitious. It’s the sort of book that makes me want to write without worrying about logical thought and the limits of ordinary stories.



Herman and Rosie teacher's notes

When Herman and Rosie was selected as 2013's Read for Australia book, a national event where a chosen book is read simultanously on July 21st in schools across the country as part of National Literacy & Numeracy Week (NLNW), they put together an enormously comprehensive resource of teaching notes, plans and activities for teachers and students of every age group. Nine units in total! I am thrilled that many secondary schools have also chosen to study the book as part of their English program with relation to visual literacy and story telling. They have done a wonderful job and I thank all those teachers who worked on them. There is some great material there to help engage discussion among students. Picture books are always more complex than you think. Feel free to download and share.

Teaching Notes K-1 #1 (PDF 1.10MB | DOCX 1.04MB)

Teaching Notes K-2 (PDF 120KB | DOCX 43KB)

Teaching Notes Years 2-3 (PDF 136KB | DOCX 45KB)

Teaching Notes Years 4-5 (PDF 123KB | DOCX 42KB)

Teaching Notes Years 5-6 (PDF 111KB | DOCX 48KB)

Teaching Notes Years 7-8 #1 (PDF 197KB | DOC 101KB)

Teaching Notes Years 7-8 #2 (PDF 108KB | DOCX 45KB)

Teaching Notes Years 7-8 #3 (PDF 126KB | DOC 95KB)

Penguin's secondary school teaching notes (PDF 711KB | DOCX 1.50MB)

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