Sunday, March 2, 2008


I can't believe it's already Sunday - on vacation as I am, forgive me for not posting as often as I'd planned... we are settled in, adjusted to the new time zone and, for the most part, the altitude. I'll do better this week!

Anyway, on to the subject at hand. At the library here the other day, young Owen pulled a Garfield comic book out of the "to be shelved" stack, plunked himself down on the floor, and read that book cover-to-cover. He hadn't even taken his coat off yet; needless to say, we checked it out and brought it back to the grandparents'.

Fortunately, the grandparents own quite a few comic books already, including a beautiful, hardbound, annotated edition of the Peanuts, with strips from the 50s on into the 90s. Pretty much nonstop, the boys read from the Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and Peanuts books available; enter the room in which Luke is reading and he'll corner you to read "a few of my favorites from this book."

We're on vacation, so I decided that 24/7 comics were okay with me; originally, I thought they'd be fluff, with strips to make him laugh but not much else. Now that this has been Luke's habit for the last few days, I feel differently - the concepts and lessons that come up while reading the funnies are surprising!

Several times it has happened that Luke reads a strip, laughs uproariously, pauses and says, "I don't get that one..." And one of us will explain why it's funny, usually because a word has two meanings, or the strip refers to some cultural touchstone that, at 7, Luke doesn't know about yet. Also, a few strips have been downright educational.

In one Calvin and Hobbes, for instance, Calvin finds some cigarettes and is amazed that his mom gives him permission to try one; later, as he's coughing his head off, he tries to figure out how something so awful could be habit-forming. This strip left Luke puzzling for days, asking questions about not just cigarettes, but other addictions too (the grandparents have an extensive shot glass collection, and Luke's trying to figure out the line between a glass of wine with dinner and alcoholism.)

In what has become my favorite Peants strip, Snoopy imagines himself a soldier at the infamous Revolutionary War winter camp for soldiers, Valley Forge. In the strip, Snoopy, dressed in rags and wearing no shoes, asks General Washington for an indoor hockey rink. To boost morale for the soldiers, he suggests weekly hockey and figure skating clubs, and thinks to himself as the General has him thrown out of the tent, "I didn't even get to ask him about the Zamboni!" This strip sparked so many questions: starting with why it's funny and moving onto history about Valley Forge and the awful conditions everyone lived under there, and coming back to the absurdity of a hockey rink in such a time/place.

It turns out that reading the funnies has been a boon, not just because we all like to curl up with them (especially on a snowy, wintery day like this one) but because they convey important information - to readers of all ages.

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