If you say the word “peanuts” these days, I would hope that you think not of the snack, but of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang. Charles Schulz introduced these beloved characters to the world in a daily comic strip in 1950 and continued their journey until his death in 2000. For over fifty years the Peanuts gang has entertained readers with stories and created cherished memories that are still passed on to this day. While the daily comic does not feature any new stories, readers have had the chance to start the journey all over again, as the comics are now in reruns. And unlike other comic strips that have lived past their creators, Peanuts still resonates with readers all of these years later due to the loveable characters. The gang helps us remember what it’s like growing up, both the good and bad aspects; from striking out at the big game to annoying big sisters to kite eating trees and to crazy but lovable dogs, Peanuts has it all. One thing that has been missing though, are easily transportable collections of the comics that we can take on trips, to school, to work, and just to curl up on the couch with. Thankfully AMP Publishing for Kids has begun publishing themed books of classic comics from Peanuts to introduce a younger audience to comics from earlier years.
The first of two collections focuses on the loveable pup Snoopy in Snoopy: Cowabunga!, as he makes his way through the world playing sports, being a beagle scout, and spreading joy wherever he can. The second collection focuses on Charlie Brown and the gang in Charlies Brown and Friends as they celebrate baseball (even winning their first ever game!), winter, school and all things in between.
While the strips in these collections show dates between 2000 and 2002 (after Schulz’s passing and during the rerunning phase of Peanuts), they are actually from the 1970s. AMP Publishing did make a couple of changes in the collections. First, the comics are slightly larger (about 5%) than what we would see on the newspaper pages. This helps the reader see Schulz’s art in all of its glory, from the sketchy outlines of the characters to the expressions on their faces to the pattern on the sofa, we can see it all. The second change, is that while the original strips were published in black and white, these strips have been reprinted with color added to them, likely to help resonate with younger readers. While this may seem like sacrilege to some, the Sunday Peanuts strips have long been in color, and the color choices used in this collection match those. To be honest, while reading the book I forgot that the strips were not originally in color because the colors work so well with the characters and seem natural. Both of these changes are positive, as they help readers reconnect with stories or just see them in a new light.
The other great bonus feature of these collections is that AMP has added some activities to the book. Both collections feature flip animation at the bottom of the pages, which actually is reminiscent of some of the earlier collections of Peanuts comics. They also feature some great activities to try out, such as creating a paper Snoopy finger puppet and making his dog house as well. Lastly, they have added pull out posters to hang up in your bedroom or office. The poster included with the Snoopy collection though, is by far my favorite, as it depicts all of the characters from the Peanuts comic strip in order of appearance. How cool is that?
AMP’s stated hope for these new collections is that it will help introduce new younger readers to the comic in time for the new Peanuts movie coming out in 2015. I am a bit disappointed by that statement. Not that the collections won’t introduce new readers to the strips, but because I think (and hope) that people share the comic with new readers whenever they can. While the stated age group for these collections is middle-grade readers, these collection are perfect for young and old alike. Here’s to the next collection that is to come and may Peanuts continue to live in our memories and live for another fifty plus years.
Charlie Brown and Friends, vol. 2: A Peanuts Collection
by Charles Schulz
AMP Publishing for Kids, 2014