Jacky Ha-Ha

For those of us who consume audiobooks, the Peanuts books market is rather weak. After all, most of them are collections of comics or at least heavily-illustrated kids books where, if the text were recorded, it would take up just a few minutes of listening during one’s daily exercise regimen.

But my quest for something to listen to while biking around the neighborhood did offer up one unlikely suspect: the kids novel Jacky Ha-ha, which is the fictional memoir of an Oscar-winning, Saturday Night Live-veteran comedic actress, writing about a vital year of her school days when she went from being a trouble-making class clown to being a genuine performer…. largely because she was forced to take a role in the school production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. A reasonable portion of the book is about that production.

The book is written by prolific best-selling author James Patterson. Well, actually, like many of his books, it’s co-written by Patterson. In smaller letters on the cover is the name Chris Grabenstein. (Patterson has another book coming up co-written by a guy name Bill Clinton; I’m guessing the Bill will not be subjected to the smaller-letter treatment.)

I can’t say how the book would go over with the 9-to-12-year-old readers who it targets. I have to admit that it didn’t particularly fulfill me, being fairly shallow and repetitive…. which might have been fine if I cruised through it at reading speed rather than at listening-to-someone-else-read speed. But there’s nothing wrong with how they treat Charlie Brown and the rest of the crew; they depict them as a generally-loved piece of culture, and the play as a good source for entertainment. It’s just one bit of the specifics in the book; set in the 1990s, the authors use as lot of brand name references (points for using Tastykakes, a name that would specifically be correct in the New Jersey seaside setting of the tale) as well as spending some time describing what life in the era was like (sensible, since the book is aimed at folks who were born in this century.) Perhaps it was those delicious Tastykake Krimpets being invoked that drove this book to the top of the New York Times best-seller list.

It does make me wonder just how many Saturday Night Livers actually have performed in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (likely many) and just which parts they played.

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