There have been enough Big Books About Peanuts that the trick on writing them is to find a new angle. The angle for The Complete Peanuts Family Album is to do a deep dive, covering all of the characters in Peanuts, anyone who had a name and a few who didn’t. This take is not completely new – as writer Andrew Farago will note on my podcast next week (already recorded, so no, I’m not being psychic), this expands on a the angle of a certain Japanese book – but for those of us who speak English, it’s new enough.
The Peanuts of this oversized, 256-page hardcover is specifically the Peanuts of the newspaper strip – no additions from the animated takes allowed (and certainly, no Dolores!) The book is heavily illustrated, and those illustrations are not limited to the strip, nor even limited just to things drawn by Schulz’s own hand. There are covers from the recent comics and design guide pages, among other things. There are also examples of genuine Schulz art that his been reprocessed and repositioned, whether it be such things as the cover for the Peanuts strip-collection ebooks or original designwork done for this book. (My favorite of the latter is a shirt with perhaps my favorite obscure Peanuts character. Tapioca Pudding. She would be so glad to be on a product!) The images are a mixed ba
The text is well-written; Farago, who has a number of pop culture books under his belt, did a good job of going beyond a flat description of what’s covered in the strips, and augmenting it with quotes from Schulz himself – sometimes directly about the character, sometimes based on something that is contextually relevant. And that’s good, because for some of these characters, there’s not much to say! The book is built around the page, with minor characters getting one page (largely filled with art), and more major characters getting a series of pages focused on different aspects of them. There are also some pages on strip themes, like “Halloween” or places like “Daisy Hill Puppy Farm.”
This isn’t a book that you have to sit down and read. It’s more of a grazing book. Leave it on your coffee table, flip through, read up on Royanne Hobbes one day, on Molly Volley another. The book is not a must-have, but it is inviting. It’s hard not to flip through it, even if just do look at the pictures. (And do peel back the dust cover; there are a couple of nice shots under there.) This is very giftable; even if someone does have the complete Complete Peanuts, this gives them another way to view the strip.
As mentioned above, the next episode of The AAUGH Blog Podcast will be an interview with Andrew Farago, so be sure to stop by on Wednesday and get it!