Culture Street

Gus Gordon is an illustrator and author. He grew up on a farm in northern NSW and, after leaving school, worked on cattle stations all over Australia before deciding to pursue a career as an illustrator. He moved to Sydney and studied at the Julian Ashton School of Art. Gus illustrated his first children's book in 1996 and has now illustrated and written over 70 books for children.

Gus's illustrations are known for their loose and energetic line work, mixed media and humour.His most recent picture book Herman and Rosie was recently shortlisted for the  Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Awards.

We are delighted that Gus has joined us today to shares his five most influential books.

 
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This is one of those books where I remember how I felt reading it. Mostly, I felt excited. Mark Twain was really good at adventure stories. It is very much a boy’s book and consequently I have many childhood memories that are associated with it in some form. It was easy to imagine myself as Tom Sawyer or Huck floating down the Mississippi with hours to kill. Huck’s curiosity made sure I was both eager and anxious. It was also the first book where I can recall being aware of the writing and recognising that this was a valuable skill.

 
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berničres

When I first began to read this book I wondered where on earth it was going. Berničres 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 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.

 
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.

 
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.

 

 

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