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review 2019-01-12 16:19
The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 4: 1957-1958
The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 4: 1957-1958 - Charles M. Schulz,Jonathan Franzen

After a long hiatus, I've resolved to start reading these again. Whenever I feel like I need a boost I'll go ahead and buy another volume. I mean, I'm never going to retire anyway so what's the point of having a savings account?

 

Edit: Also, sorry folks you have to click through to the blog to see the whole comic strip. 

 

These were good years for the strip, with Schulz continuing to refine his technique, there are long sequences here - notably Linus' pledge to go without his blanket for two weeks and Charlie Brown's epic baseball gaff - and thee are jokes with almost identical panels repeated many times. This repetition wasn't detrimental, it seemed more like Schulz working out a joke in his mind until it reached maximum absurdity. Violet's hi-fi parasol inevitably becomes Lucy's hi-fi jump rope.

 

 

 

Much of the humor appears timeless, but the Peanuts gang were children of the 1950s, young baby boomers as observed by the previous generation. Their are many gags that deal with no outmoded technology, branding, or early television, but those dealing with child psychology were some of my favorites. This was the beginning of parenting being serious business:

 

27Jul57

 

 

Snoopy's impressions took off in the last volume, but he adds many more to his repertoire in these years and in general is just delightful.

 

 

There were no additions to the cast, the last two comics have everyone in them (the very last even with names)  but Schulz has a lot on his hands figuring out the group dynamics, good and bad. Schroeder and Charlie Brown compete for who's better at despairing over contemporary pop culture:

 

 

It was truly difficult picking a Sunday for this review, but this one touches on a lot of things I love about the series. Poor Charlie Brown, he suffers all the pangs of childhood and rarely catches a break:

 

 

Maybe it gets better for him next year, but I doubt it!

 

 

Complete Peanuts

 

Next: 'Volume Five: 1959-1960'

 

Previous: 'Volume Three: 1955-1956'

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review 2019-01-11 18:40
Podkin One-Ear, Longburrow # 1 by Kieran Larwood
Podkin One-Ear (Longburrow) - Kieran Larwood,David Wyatt

I had to look back over the past year's books to confirm this, but I think this was the most pleasant surprise of 2018. 'Podkin One-Ear' is the first book in the Longburrow series (known as Five Realms in the U.K.) which brings us to an Earth of the distant future where the dominant species are rabbits that have evolved into an intelligent, bipedal, medievalesque society. Which I love so much more than the usual this is a land of talking critters. I love you 'Redwall' but, yeah.

 

The story is framed so that the events of young Podkin's life are set in the past, some two or three generations ago, and are being told to young rabbits on the eve of a winter festival. It involves a time when the land was invaded by a terrifying force, known as the Gorm, that corrupted warrens and destroyed many lives. Podkin, a chieftain's son prone to slacking, is left homeless and on the run with his brave sister Paz and infant brother Pook. Together they have to make it through the cold winter, find shelter and warn others of the danger behind them. Their only weapon is a magic ancestral sword given into their safekeeping and the Gorm will stop at nothing to take it from them.

 

This is a story of family and friendship, of learning from one's mistakes, and finding the courage to do what's necessary. 'Podkin' delivers on adventure and some very real scares. This is writing that is appropriate for younger readers, ages 9-12 depending on their level, but it doesn't pander to them. I often find myself qualifying middle grade novels because I shouldn't expect storytelling savvy, epic world-building, and strong characters in a children's book, but Kieran Larwood meets a standard equal to other greats in young people's fantasy from Diana Wynne Jones to Lloyd Alexander

 

Longburrow

 

Next: 'The Gift of Dark Hollow

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review 2018-11-14 03:02
Crush, Berrybrook #3 by Svetlana Chmakova
Crush - Svetlana Chmakova

Jorge Ruiz is bigger than most of his classmates, but he uses his powers for good and helps keep the peace in the halls of Berrybrook Middle School, which, despite its utopian-esque levels of diversity and vibrant club-driven atmosphere, still has a bullying problem. Of course it does, because middle school. Anyway, Jorge is a decent guy and loves hanging out with his two best friends, but one day as he's musing about how complicated life is getting with everyone else pairing off and breaking up, he can't get his mind off of Jazmin.

 

This is a deceptively simple story about crushing, love, and friendship. I have zero criticism. Chmakova has a way of balancing her characters and making a tight story out of the swirling, hormonal chaos that is middle school. She focuses  on a few characters and realistic problems and captures something special. I mean, I hated middle school and yet this made me remember some of those fleeting moments of dizzy happiness. 'Crush' is sweet. I also appreciated how the crisis aspects of the storyline were resolved this time around. In 'Brave' Jensen's problems were solved, but in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. This felt like a more responsible and realistic way to deal with behavior problems.

 

Berrybrook Middle School

 

Next: '?'

 

Previous: 'Brave'

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review 2018-11-12 15:17
A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Time Quintet #3 by Madeleine L'Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle

Years have passed since 'A Wind in the Door'. Charles Wallace is a teenager and Meg Murry is the pregnant wife of Calvin O'Keefe. Dramatic changes in her protagonists seems to be one of L'Engle's hallmarks, and with a little research, I see she can go back and forth on a character's age. Much like Gaudior, L'Engle sometimes finds moving through time easier than space.

 

It is Thanksgiving and the family is gathered together, except for Calvin who is away on business. Calvin' mother, Mrs. O'Keefe, however, is at dinner and a little out of place. During dinner Meg's father receives a phone call from the President saying that nuclear war is imminent based on the threats of a South American dictator. Mrs. O'Keefe responds to this news with a "rune" calling upon heaven's aid to help them in this dark time. Charles Wallace feels the importance of this, and resolves to use the rune to prevent the war.

 

I may be pushing against the tide here, but this was the most enjoyable one yet. I really struggled with the flatness of 'A Wrinkle in Time'. This novel has some problematic elements, especially with its romancing of Native American culture and its lack of dynamic female characters. For the first charge there is only the defense that L'Engle's People of the Winds were one tribe only, she doesn't say that all Native Americans were "pre-fall" innocents. In the universe of these books, she would have represented all humans, Native American or not, as being that innocent before the Echthroi's corrupting influence touched them. Not the most satisfactory defense, but it works for me.

 

The second charge against female characters I can say much less about. In this book they are all tools for breeding and marrying except Mrs. O'Keefe providing some critical plot assistance before shuffling off, and Meg Murry providing some kythe-aid while pregnant and in bed. There's not much defensible in that, but I feel Meg has deserved some time with her feet up so it didn't bother my reading.

 

Anyway, this was entertaining from start to finish, something I couldn't say about the previous two.

 

Time Quintet

 

Next: 'Many Waters'

 

Previous: 'A Wind in the Door'

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review 2018-11-07 04:20
The Missing Chums, Hardy Boys #4
The Missing Chums (Hardy Boys, #4) - Walter S. Rogers,Franklin W. Dixon

'The Missing Chums' is the fourth book of the Hardy Boys mysteries and the first released after the simultaneous launch of the first three in 1927. This is a marketing move still used by publishers for some juvenile series. I've also always loved how incredibly outdated the title of this one is, revise THAT Harriet Strathmeyer. Ha.

 

I never read the revised version of this, likely because of that silly title, but I can imagine this would have been drastically altered after seeing how our boys behave in this round. They put themselves in a great deal of danger, blithely discount the proper authorities until the case is wrapped up in a neat bow, and show a lack of respect to their long-suffering Aunt Gertrude.

 

I forgot to mention that this title is also the introduction of good ol' Aunt Gertrude, an often tiresome relation, but one who offers a great deal of color to the series and a much needed tonic to the blissful perfection of the rest of the Hardy family.

 

The mystery here is that shortly after a strange encounter on the waters while testing out Biff Hooper new speedboat (every teen boy in Bayport gets a motorcycle and a speedboat it seems), Chet Morton and Biff go missing! Could they have been lost in that sudden storm, or is it something else? As most of Bayport assumes our two supporting characters are dead, the Hardy Boys refuse to give up, especially when they connect the boys' disappearance with a high profile case Fenton Hardy is working on.

 

A trip to a snake infested island caps off a so-so mystery, but a good adventure story. Much like in 'The Secret of the Old Mill' I couldn't find anything objectionable enough to merit revision.

 

Hardy Boys

 

Next: 'Hunting for Hidden Gold'

 

Previous: 'The Secret of the Old Mill'

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