I would be committing a major injustice to this column if I didn’t take the time to remind everyone about one of the greatest comic strips of all time, Peanuts.  Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, the Little Red Haired Girl, Franklin, the list of amazing characters created by the master Charlie Schulz goes on and on… and on.  Peanuts holds a very special place in my heart as I grew up playing hockey for Schulz at his ice arena in Santa Rosa, CA.  Today, an incredible museum sits next to the arena that includes his office as it sat the day the world lost Sparky (Schulz’s nickname).  In that office, on a shelf in the corner, sits a team photo featuring me.  Sparky gave me the opportunity to grow up in a wonderful environment playing his favorite game, but on top of all that, the man also gave the world volumes and volumes of timeless all ages stories.

Title: Peanuts

Creator: Charles M. Schulz

Age Recommendation: All Ages

I know what you’re thinking, “of course we know Snoopy, tell us about something new!”  Hopefully, I am not here to introduce you to Peanuts, but rather to open your eyes to the importance of this strip and the magnitude of its impact around the world.  At 17,897 total published strips, the world of Charlie Brown and company is easily one of the largest stories ever told.  And with an almost inhuman ability to churn out his strikingly beautiful minimalist cartoons, Schulz infused each and every one with a touch of humanity and morality without equal in the medium.  Peanuts stands alone.

We all know the Emmy award winning cartoons, and hardly a single child goes through life without a good plush Snoopy to cuddle with, but how acquainted are you with the comic strip?  Currently available in the stunning Complete Peanuts box sets (they’re packaged in two volume sets by year) or through any number of online sources, I can think of no comics more appropriate for your child’s development than these.  75 countries read Peanuts at its height, translating them into over 20 languages, making the strip universal and a worldwide icon.

Personally, I’ve really grown attached to the early years of Peanuts.  As you can see from above, the classic look of Charlie and the gang made popular from the specials is present in these early forms, but there is a real unpolished innocence to them as well.  Even though they never age, they feel like younger versions of themselves.  Some of my all time favorite strips are from this early 50s era, but the quality remains throughout.  Schulz used his strip to teach valuable lessons about growing up and growing right.  He never used anything but positive imagery and a reinforcement structure dependent on kids being good to kids.  Adults had no real place in Peanuts, so the often complex concept of a supportive peer group was a pillar of the world.  From potty training to understanding how to cope with a bad report card, there is a strip for your child and you.

The way he produced his strips, the sheer volume of them and the love and dedication and purpose he gave to each vignette, sets Schulz apart from so many and yet, he was always accessible as a human being, as an artist, and through his wonderful world of characters.  This one is a no brainer!  Gather up some Peanuts and put them in front of your kids and they will fall in love instantly.

Added bonus!  Plug in the famed Snoopy Snow Cone Machine for a tasty treat as you and your kids read Peanuts!!