Today is not just one of the greatest days of the year, it’s TWO of the greatest days of the year: International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and the day when the year’s first new book edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas is released. And this edition is an all-new adaptation, not just a reprinting of an earlier one. The text is by Maggie Testa, who has been writing many of the Peanuts kids books of late, and the art is by Vicki Scott, a talented artist who has been on a lot of Peanuts projects, including doing some good work on the comic book series.
The look chosen for this particular book is flat color (rather than the rendered color of the Brannon illustrations used in a many editions of recent years) but without black outlines around the objects. There are some places where this makes for a good visual, but other places (particularly snowy scenes) it makes the characters look washed out and fading into the backgrounds. The facial features are mostly drawn in black – eyes, eyebrows, mouth – but the nose outline is in a light color, which lends to it disappearing from or interrupting the expression rather than making it part of it. This isn’t a style choice that I’d want to see become de facto for Peanuts material in the future, but as a way of differentiating this adaptation from past ones, it’s reasonable.
The text is a pretty good take. There’s one place where simplifying has hurt the gag (when Lucy is listing types of phobias that Charlie Brown might have, she only lists one before hitting on the one that Charlie Brown claims to have; you really want at least two for comedic rhythm there, but I understand the desire to keep the text short.) And before I get any questions: no, they did not excise the Gospel quote. They never excise the Gospel quote. I sometimes hear from people assuming that demand for secular culture is going to cause that to be cut, and I doubt we’ll ever see that; it’s a key part of this work’s existence.
The physical package is strong – a cloth-wrapped hardcover with foil stamping on front, back, and spine, the end-papers have sheet music: “Jingle Bells” in the front, and of course “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” in the back. A piece of genuine Schulz art (Schroeder with Snoopy) is integrated into each set of sheet music. They are presenting this as a “deluxe edition”, so such added details makes sense.
All in all, if you want a book adaptation of A Charlie Brown Christmas for your own self or to give as a gift, this is certainly a reasonable choice. And if you want to maintain a complete collection of book editions, then this definitely is one and you need it. But then you’d be meshugina!