Schulz, Charles M(onroe)
Charles M(onroe) Schulz 1922–
American cartoonist and illustrator. Schulz's comic strip, "Peanuts," is internationally popular for its humorous and sensitive portrayal of children and their reactions to life. Schulz grew up knowing he would someday be a cartoonist. Lacking confidence, however, he studied art via correspondence rather than facing the instructors in person. His strip entitled "Li'l Folks" first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post before it was bought and renamed "Peanuts" by the United Feature Syndicate in 1950. Many of the characters and their predicaments are personal observations and autobiographical elements in Schulz's life; he thinks of them as a second family. A compulsive worrier like his character Charlie Brown, he is concerned that his characters always reflect the sentiments of their creator. Schulz, therefore, is one of the few cartoonists who has no ghost writers. Throughout the cartoon's lifetime, the "Peanuts" gang has become more defined in character, appealing to children on a literal level, and to adults for their astute observations of human nature at its most precarious moments. Most of the strips carry a message of some sort, be it humorous or profound, which often reflects Schulz's religious background. Critics agree that it is the dialogue that supports the simply drawn figures. The daily strip has branched out to include other media, such as books and television, the most popular of these creations being Schulz's first TV special "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Schulz has been criticized for the commercialization of his strip, which has resulted in a barrage of "Peanuts" products, from greeting cards to Christmas ornaments. However, Charlie Brown and his friends show the wisdom of innocence, and have escaped the limits of the four paneled cartoon into the realm of the American cultural symbol. Schulz was twice presented with the Reuben Award, the cartoonist's equivalent of the Oscar, in 1955 and 1964. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed., and Something about the Author, Vol. 10.)
In a decade that has seen much of the fun leak out of the funnies, a Popsicle-set Punchinello named Good Ol' Charlie Brown has endeared himself to millions of newspaper readers with a quietly wistful brand of humor that is both fresh and worldly-wise….
The appeal of Peanuts lies in its sophisticated melding of wry wisdom and sly one-upmanship. Unlike such funnypage small fry as Hank Ketcham's Dennis the Menace or Jimmy Hatlo's Little Iodine, its characters are disingenuous and uncute. Charlie, whose peanut-bald head is surmounted by a single dispirited curl, is a junior-grade Walter Mitty, whose highflying dreams of popularity crash in endless ignominies.
"Child's Garden of Reverses," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc. 1958), March 3, 1958, p. 58.
Nathan A. Scott, Jr.
[The] art of the cartoon strip must not have been wholly corrupted if it can still afford a working medium for so scrupulous and lively an imagination as that of Charles Schulz. For, in and through the fabulous little world of Charlie Brown and Lucy and Linus and Snoopy and Shermy and Violet, Mr. Schulz has been turning a remarkably penetrating searchlight on the anxieties and evasions and duplicities that make up our common lot; and … the analysis of human existence that Mr. Schulz is giving us is essentially theological and, in its basic inspiration, deeply Christian. (pp. ix-x)
Nathan A. Scott, Jr., in his foreword to The Gospel According to Peanuts by Robert L. Short (© 1965 by M. E. Bratcher; used by permission of John Knox Press), John Knox, 1964 (and reprinted by Bantam Books, 1968), pp. ix-x.
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Robert L. Short
Peanuts, the famous cartoon strip, often assumes the form of a modern-day, Christian parable. To illustrate how closely the parables of Peanuts can parallel the parables of the New Testament—in lessons suggested, in ways of suggesting these lessons, and in indirect method—[the cartoon showing Linus' kingdom of sand washed away by rain] is coupled with Christ's parable of "The house on the rock and the house on the sand." (p. 19)
And so there are lessons to be found in Peanuts; but just as in the parables of Christ, we are not always sure what these lessons are. Or, as Lucy would put it, also in Peanuts we have trouble "reading between the lines."…
[Mr. Schulz] has confessed … to presenting something of a religious message in Peanuts, but evidently he has not gone much further in specifying exactly what this message is. Again, why should he?… [The] job of the interpreter (whether minister, priest, professional critic, or perceptive layman) and the job of the artist should usually be kept apart. "How can you give a personal evaluation of a work of art?" was Schulz's guarded reply when one reporter attempted to force him into becoming his own critic. Both the Church and the artist must constantly beware of cheapening what they have to say by making it too accessible….
[Lessons] "to be found," if they are to be seriously appreciated when...
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WILLIAM H. McNEILL
"On a beautiful day like this it would be best to stay in bed so you wouldn't get up and spoil it," says Charlie Brown in Charles M. Schulz' latest triumph, You're Something Else, Charlie Brown. To review it is like getting out of bed—too risky to be undertaken seriously; safe only for the light-hearted. And if you're lighthearted you may read it and chuckle or smile, but chuckles and smiles have never made it in English orthography, even with the license accorded comic-strip artists. So let us merely say hurrah and pass on swiftly to some earnest thoughts about the Charlie Brown phenomenon in general, and another and far less successful Charlie Brown book in particular [You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown].
The celebrated Pooh perplex perploxed the Depression generation of privileged children and parents—those, that is, who could afford two bucks for a book of sentiment—and whumsy. But the present pullulation of Charlie Brownisms utterly dwarfs what went before. Who can pooh-pooh the eclipse of Pooh? By who? By you! But what did you do? Why, read Charlie Brown instead.
What does it signify? A coming of age of American culture? The apartments of New York instead of the purlieus of Kensington Gardens as exercise ground for childhood imagination—and parents, too, of course?
Or are we playing a freudulent trick upon the young by offering them not one but a whole company of anti-heroes...
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Robert L. Short
"Art-Parable is that creation of man with no practical use except to communicate meaning indirectly through forms that capture one's attention." This is the kind of definition that could easily help wear someone out, but it is also why all art is parable, and vice versa…. Charles Schulz's famous comic strip, Peanuts, certainly meets this definition of Art-Parable. But since this cannot be said of all comic strips, we need to distinguish between "art" and "entertainment." All art involves "entertainment" of sorts, but not all entertainment is art. Mere entertainment leads us away from reality; indeed it can even be considered an escape from reality…. Art, on the other hand, can also entertain us, but it goes further. It leads us through its dream back to a reality that perhaps we had not seen before or to a reality that we now see in a new light. It helps us to see our lives as they really are and frequently provides suggestions as to how those lives can better be faced and accepted without the constant need for escape…. Art-Parable … always has "something to say."… (pp. 14-15)
This extra dimension of Art-Parable no doubt accounts for much of the phenomenal popularity of Peanuts. For in addition to being consistently well drawn and funny and entertaining, it is easy to see that this important "plus factor" is also there. Not only can we see it, but we know that Schulz intends for it to be there. "In a sense,...
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Since the very beginning, each era or generation has had its satirical cartoonist; one who stands above the others, points to what we have really become, and teaches us to laugh.
Our time has given us the best yet. He is Charles M. Schulz…. Charlie is a dear man who has taken it upon himself to make children of us all. Let us be eternally grateful for his foresight. We are God's children after all, and are meant to be no more than that. As a jealous child who loves to laugh, I sometimes … resent the laughs that God must surely enjoy at the expense of his clumsy, faltering children. He shares, of course, an equal amount of sorrow, which I do not wish to get into. Charlie Schulz does get into this. He gives us our pathetic side, and we laugh with dewy eyes. (pp. v-vi)
There are times when Charlie Brown and the red-headed girl cause me more tears than laughter. Not knowing whether to cry or laugh is, at its best, an exhilarating feeling. We've all felt it. The invariable result is laughter, which feels good.
Charlie Schulz is a man who not only knows the intricate parts of the funny bone, but proves his knowledge day by day. All things to Schulz contain the element of fun. You and I and the world can rest assured that the day cannot come when a herd of angry, pumpkin-headed kids trample Charlie Schulz…. (p. vi)
Johnny Hart, in his foreword to PEANUTS...
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One of the most remarkable facts about [Peanuts] is the way its popularity cuts across every kind of classification. People from very young children to the very old admire it, for all kinds of special reasons. Schroeder, the Beethoven-loving character who is usually seen playing the piano when he isn't playing baseball, appeals to people who had never heard of Beethoven before. The little tyrant Lucy is seen by the small fry as a deliciously contrary girl, and by some adults as the typically abrasive female in American life. Linus, with his security blanket, seems to speak to everyone who would like to have a blanket of his own in troubled times. And Snoopy, the beagle who has Van Goghs hanging in his doghouse and a World War I aviator's helmet on his head, is the kind of fantasy dog everyone would like to own. (p. 72)
In the hierarchy of immortal comic strips—Blondie, Little Orphan Annie, Andy Gump, L'il Abner, Krazy Kat,—Schulz has created something unique, more successful than all the others, but paradoxically more fragile. Perhaps it is because the strip is so personal that it elicits an unprecedented identification and affection from its vast readership. People don't take it literally, like Little Orphan Annie, whose characters are real people to some readers. Neither is its appeal pure fantasy shaped into barbed, slightly acid social satire, like L'il Abner. Nor is it a vehicle for the creator's...
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Charles M. Schulz
During these twenty years, I have had the opportunity to observe what makes a good comic strip. I am convinced that the ones that have survived and maintained a high degree of quality are those which have a format that allows the creator room to express every idea that comes to him….
[What] is funny in a comic strip today will not necessarily be funny the following week. A good example of this is the character of Snoopy. The mere fact that we could read Snoopy's thoughts was funny in itself when Peanuts first began. Now, of course, it is the content of those thoughts that is important, and as he progresses in his imagination to new personalities, some of the things which he originally did as an ordinary dog would no longer be funny. Snoopy's personality in the strip has to be watched very carefully, for it can get away from me. (p. 73)
[Children] see more than we think they do, but at the same time almost never seem to know what is going on. This is an interesting paradox, and one with which adults should try to acquaint themselves…. (p. 74)
Charles M. Schulz, "The Not-So Peanuts World of Charles M. Schulz, Part II: But a Comic Strip Has to Grow," in Saturday Review (© 1969 by Saturday Review, Inc.; reprinted with permission), April 12, 1969, pp. 73-4.
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[Snoopy and the Red Baron] was Schulz's first full-length cartoon adventure and, as the publisher describes it, "In the tradition of the great war novels, it is an odyssey of love, guts, and tears." In case you don't read the comics, Snoopy is Charlie Brown's hound dog, and the life he leads would do credit to Walter Mitty. In his most persistent fantasy Snoopy is a World War I air ace, and his doghouse is the Sopwith Camel in which he ventures at dawn into the wild blue yonder to do battle with the butcher of the skies, Baron von Richtofen. Ridiculous? Don't be silly! Think of it—Snoopy under anti-aircraft fire over France; Snoopy smiling coldly in the shadow of the familiar Fokker Triplane; Snoopy piercing the skies with a defiant cry of "Nyahh, Nyaah, Nyaah, Red Baron!"; Snoopy plummeting to earth; Snoopy making his way across barbed wire through enemy lines to safety; Snoopy, secure at last back in headquarters and already dreaming of the next epic dogfight: "Someday I'll get you, Red Baron!" This is what war and heroism are all about, friends. This is what Dos Passos and Hemingway and Republic Pictures were trying to tell us all along. (p. 13)
Clarence Petersen, in Book World—Chicago Tribune (© 1969 Postrib Corp.). August 10, 1969.
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"Peanuts" [is] the evocative, touching and wise comic strip that has quietly become an American institution. As unpretentious as Schulz himself, the strip has restored to use idioms of a simpler day: "Good grief," "Rats!" and "You blockhead." It has invented the cult of the Great Pumpkin, and the concept of the Failure Face. It has given the world a dozen definitions of happiness and a store of homespun philosophical reflections…. It has expressed what may be the quintessential American lament: "How can we lose when we're so sincere?"…
The magic begins with the characters, an appealing lot whose foibles, anxieties and frustrations make a human comedy that hovers always on the lip of despair. (p. 40)
[Throughout the years] the strip itself has changed in subtle ways—the features are sharper now, the dialogue more sophisticated, the heads larger in relation to the bodies…. Schulz's dialogue has always carried his strips, and lately he has moved steadily away from straight gags and trick humor, the kind invariably revealed in the last panel. "I want to get the humor from the personalities of the characters, to get people to know them…. It's a mistake to try to please all the readers every day. It's unreasonable to think someone should be able to pick up the paper for the first time and enjoy Peanuts. We have to tease the reader along from day to day." (pp. 42-3)
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REINHOLD REITBERGER and WOLFGANG FUCHS
That Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, is a lay preacher in the 'Church of God', a conservative, biblically orientated Protestant sect, is today common knowledge; and books like The Gospel According to Peanuts and The Parables of Peanuts, both by Robert L. Short [see excerpts above] have made it clear that Peanuts has a metaphysical background. Short's biblical paraphrase of the human condition is illustrated by sequences from Peanuts and it is evident that Schulz, in his own way, gives a much clearer picture of humanity's malaise than Short's often cited favourite authors Kierkegaard, Barth and Tillich. (p. 54)
The Peanuts children have aged only about two or three years since 1950, but spiritually they have undergone much greater changes. Right at the beginning Charlie Brown and his friends acted like any other normal children. Sally liked Charlie better than Shermy and even quarrelled with Violet, who insisted she loved him even more.
Those were happy days for Charlie Brown; but soon his balloon-shaped head became a target for malicious personal remarks, and whilst the other kids developed more and more odd traits and even phobias, which they paraded quite openly, Charlie Brown remained normal and human and consequently became the outsider. The time of childish innocence had passed. Schulz is always at his best when he portrays the inability of the naïvely simple and humane...
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Robert G. Miner, Jr.
Without even venturing into the possibilities [the "Snoopy Come Home" Movie Book] suggests—among them the cliché that this is a post-literary generation—I can't help feeling that the "Movie Book" may herald a new trend. Instead of the book-to-movie progression of the past decades, TV, ironically enough, may have made the moving picture commonplace for today's children and the moving word intriguingly new. Schultz's book is graced with the laconic humor and pointed jabs of pure feeling that already have made Peanuts a staple for adults of all ages. The book also offers some startling double-page illustrations that share, in their unconventional focus and perspective, some of the unnerving aptness of perception about small people's relationship to the full-size world that marks the work of all great writers of children's literature. (pp. 219-20)
Robert G. Miner, Jr., in Children's Literature: Annual of The Modern Language Association Seminar on Children's Literature and The Children's Literature Association, Vol. 2, edited by Francelia Butler (© 1972 by Francelia Butler; all rights reserved). Temple University Press, 1973.
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Arthur Asa Berger
Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, is a rather shy person who personifies the American Dream. (p. 181)
Peanuts is now so ubiquitous that it is literally part of the fabric of modern American society, and Schulz is the spokesman for millions of mute Americans. (p. 182)
Because the comic strip does not have much status as an art form, and because the characters in Peanuts are little children and a dog, we tend to underestimate Schulz's achievement, even though almost everybody admires his work. I believe that Schulz is one of the greatest humorists of the twentieth century…. [He] has developed a distinctive style of art work, an incredible assortment of characters, and a positively amazing command of the techniques of humor.
His ouvrage is monumental. And though his earlier work was not particularly exceptional, he has developed his talent to an extraordinary level over the years. We find his work all about us…. The strip is also popular abroad—some hundred million people read it daily—though I believe it is essentially American in its spirit.
We enjoy Peanuts because it is extremely funny. Schulz mixes graphic, verbal, and ideational humor in a genuinely inventive manner. He is a master of representing expressions in his characters. His characters tend to be monomaniacs who pursue their destinies with all the zany abandon of...
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Sherwin D. Smith
["Peanuts" is the] General Motors of comic strips, it sometimes seems. The latest count was 44 in print, not all of them by any means proper reprints of newspaper strips. At their best, they're very, very good—a mixture of pop philosophy and fantasy. At other times, they go icky-commercial. (p. 27)
Sherwin D. Smith, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 9, 1974.
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It should have been expected that Peppermint Patty would kick the national holiday around [in "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving"], and that Marcie and Franklin would find a fresh way of celebrating the traditional event. Their faces are precise, highly individual and their remarks full of wit and irony. Imagine—the real Thanksgiving comes in out of the comic page, which may say something very authentic about the U.S.A. right now, when there is so much for which the country really can't give thanks. (p. 27)
Paul Engle, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 3, 1974.
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That Snoopy! If recollection serves, Charlie Brown's dog began where Dagwood's Daisy left off, a silent, even passive witness to human folly, occasionally giving off a bubble of gassid comment. He was a generic descendant of Buster Brown's Tige, that fabulous canine who smiled with human teeth, and both were variations on a traditional genre touch, the Boy and his Dawg. But, in time, as the Peanuts gallery expanded to include more unlikely children, increasing our suspicion that they are actually midgets, Snoopy took on a larger and more complex role, until, as [The Snoopy Festival] reveals, he has become a little dogpersonality, walking, very nearly talking, even sitting at table and enjoying an occasional root beer. Once a distinctly minor character, at times he now threatens to take over the strip.
Such are the joys and dangers of serial literature, as Shakespeare (Falstaff), Fenimore Cooper (Leatherstocking) and Mark Twain (Huckleberry Finn) discovered. But when anthropomorphics are the subject, then we are in the world of Mickey Mouse, where some interesting analogies to Peanuts hold…. Starting out as a raffish, vulgar, often violent manifestation of id, Mickey ended up as a stolid, middle-class citizen, complete with hat, business suit and pointed-toe shoes, becoming at last the equivalent of Walt himself, a sort of middle-mouse, more a manager than an actor in the company.
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Richard R. Lingeman
[Everybody] likes Peanuts, and that is as much a tribute to Mr. Schulz's Lilliputian genius as it is to his avoidance of controversy. The Peanuts children precociously know that life can be lousy and their popularity from the late fifties on may be due to their reflecting a secret, self-doubting, self-questioning mood abroad in the nation: Charlie Brown is everybody's loser because everybody is a loser much of the time. Peanuts offers a gentle philosophy of human relations, of stoically coping with existence, that is the underside of the preachments of those eupeptic middle-class yeasayers from Norman Vincent Peale to "How to Be Your Own Best Friend." (p. 7)
Richard R. Lingeman, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1975 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), December 7, 1975.
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[For] the true Peanuts fan, accustomed to the more functionally proportioned soft-cover collections, the giant Peanuts Jubilee is a bit much. However, its creator, Charles Schulz, in his modestly phrased text, lets us know that, one, he doesn't much care for the title "Peanuts," wished upon his strip by syndicate biggies; and, two, he dislikes the strip's small format—so, bigness may be important for Schulz.
Peanuts graphics are in the classic American cartoon tradition, to which the Disney atelier contributed not only its Parthenon frieze but its Arch of Constantine as well. This simple, laconic manner, a world removed from the late-'30s baroque of Alex Raymond and Milton Caniff …, was not drawn into the mainstream of American visual culture through the instrument of High Pop Art. Peanuts, like Disney, is too much the creation of our heartland; its fantasies are domestic, excluding the foreign or exotic and abjuring any ventures in space or time….
Peanuts is something of a pastoral fantasy. Like Disney, it reaches back into early-20th-century small-town America where people walked or took the bus. There was no busing to school. They walked, and this established many of the situations. If Disney's strips are today admired in the backwash of '30s nostalgia … he is now more remembered for that little-understood genre known as the family film, and, above everything else, for...
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[Charles Schulz's] autobiographical memoir Peanuts Jubilee reads almost like a story, a myth of middle America. However modestly told, it must be a great success story….
The memoir gives the real-life origin of many Peanuts events and characters. But this is a little deceptive: Mr Schulz often divulges less than he seems to.
He would have us think of him as the real Charlie Brown, a loser, stimulated to creativity by failures or disappointments in love. But if Charlie Brown ever wrote a comic strip, it would not be successful like Peanuts: it would be an international flop. Mr Schulz, we feel, must have something in him of Schroeder and Lucy—to say nothing of that typewriter ace Snoopy….
[The technical accounts of Mr Schulz's art] are not exactly secrets. About his own development away from gag cartooning, he is interesting but more reserved…. What is one to make of the cubist faces in Li'l Folks, or Snoopy's two right (seldom two left) eyes? Such matters are presented as technical problems. Thus, Mr Schulz abandoned the brush because his characters needed a tighter line; and he abandoned cats because he could not do them very well (a just appraisal, as a glance at We're Right Behind You, Charlie Brown will show).
Much—perhaps too much—of the Peanuts iconography is attributed to trivial causes. "It would be difficult to draw some of these characters from...
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For some time now I have been mystified by the sheer extent of the Peanuts trend. That the average casual reader is a schoolboy I have always realised…. But the discovery that he is not a schoolboy after all but a child comes as a bit of a smack on the face, especially as it seems to me that the Peanuts cartoons disappeared, aesthetically speaking, a long time ago down the chasm which separates adult sensibility from infant sentimentality….
[The] draughtsmanship … is, of course, where Schulz scores. It appears that his line, his proportions, and his sense of colour convey something to small children which reminds them of the way they see the world. The captions, on the other hand, please those adults whose arch explorations into what they think they remember childhood ought to have been leads them into all manner of critical excesses…. The Peanuts Jubilee book is beautifully produced …, and is for children of all ages who can't read. (p. 25)
Benny Green, in The Spectator (© 1976 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), December 11, 1976.
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[Charlie Brown's Second Super Book of Questions and Answers: About the Earth and Space … From Plants to Planets!] will answer questions such as where do the stars go in the daytime and what is a tornado. The answers are written in a manner understandable to children and adults. Frequently the questions are interspersed with color-coded squares containing interesting facts…. Some of the illustrations appear to be copies of daily "Peanuts" comic strips, while others seem to have been prepared for this publication. They are chosen with care and often support the text as well as amuse the reader. The content is accurate and instructional, but the sections on Earth, weather and climate, and on the stars and planets are more interesting than those on plants and on space travel. This book is appropriate for a wide range of readers, including parents of inquisitive children. (p. 110)
Joyce Swartney, in Science Books & Films (copyright 1978 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science), Vol. XIV, No. 2 (September, 1978).
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JEAN MARIE HIESBERGER and PAT McLAUGHLIN
A major problem with What A Nightmare, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz is that the format and illustrations suggest it was written for young children. The familiar and popular Snoopy and Charlie Brown are presented in full color, comic strip style. The small quantity of text does not form a cohesive or credible story. Basically, the "plot" concerns Snoopy's nightmare encounter with frightening monsters and terrifying dogs in Alaska following his overindulgence of pizza. The monsters in this book are consistently vicious and realistic and Snoopy only manages to save himself from them by magically becoming more vicious than they are. The whole thing seems purposeless, confusing, and somewhat frightening for small children. (p. 92)
Jean Marie Hiesberger and Pat McLaughlin, in New Catholic World, March/April, 1979.
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