Halloween all year long

Yup, I’m still playing catch-up with this year’s halloween-themed Peanuts books. It’s never too late to buy them for next year.

The major release is Trick or Treat: A Peanuts Halloween, which includes about 130 halloween and fright-themed comic strips taken from the entire run of the strip, including ones that have never been in a book. There are one to three dailies or one Sunday per page, all in black-and-white againstcolor backgrounds. There are plenty of Great Pumpkin strips in here, as well as a goodly number of jack-o-lantern gags. They also throw in some recipes (recycled from various sources) and some crafts projects — although the projects don’t have accompanying illustration, which makes it less than clear what they want you to end up with. I doubt many folks will be trying these crafts.

(As a publisher, I’m always interested in seeing how other publishers make their pricing decisions. In this case, Trick or Treat: is roughly the same format as the same publisher’srecent Who’s On First, Charlie Brown, except it has glossy paper rather than the flat stock of that earlier book. Oh, and it’s a bit shorter, a bit narrower, has well less than half as many pages and about a third as many strips. And yet the new book’s list price ($12.95) is only a buck cheaper than that earlier book. This isn’t a complaint, they’re both good deals for what you get (especially if you buy through AAUGH.com and thus get the discount off the cover price!)

And here’s a note for those who are paying attention: the June 30, 1961 strip in this book (yes, they are dated and in order) may seem a bit odd. The final panel has Linus telling Charlie Brown that a book he just read was just mildly frightening, and CB is staring oddly at the blank space above Linus’s head. Don’t get the gag? Neither did the people who read this strip when it was originally run in the newspapers. But if you find the same strip in one of the older reprint books (such as You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown or All This And Snoopy, Too), the gag becomes clear — because in those sources, Linus has a single hair that is pointing straight up, and that’s what Charlie Brown is looking at. It seems obvious that when Schulz first drew the script, someone (probably at the syndicate) saw that stray hair without getting the gag, thought it was a stray ink line, and “corrected” it, with the uncorrected version (or possible a re-corrected version) appearing in the books. And the fine folks at Ballantine went back to the source sent to the newspapers on this one. (Special thanks to Marcie for her help verifying my suspicions on this one. She should be receiving this blog entry as her first item via the new Blog Via Email system.)

Added later: I may need to revise my comment about the original newspaper appearance of this strip. While it does indeed appear incorrectly in this new book and in web-based file versions of this, the error may have been introduced into the syndicate’s copies later, rather than before the original newspaper publication. I will try to check this at some point in the future, but I cannot do it now!

Anyway, this is an enjoyable book, and should make a good holiday-time read fo the kids as well. But pitched more directly at the kids is The Great Pumpkin Strikes Again!, a color storybook based on strips. This one is largely about Linus and Peppermint Patty. I can’t get too excited about the storybooks, but if you want something to read out loud to the kiddies, here it is! (If they’re ready to read themselves, get them a strip collection.)

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