Happy Halloween! I have been wanting to post some fun books all week, and had a few new ones lined up but every time I sat down to write about them, I was stuck. I could not get excited about the reviews and I am not sure why. So I was going to do the lame thing and skip today altogether. And then I spied this book on the shelf and I was once again excited to post. Come have a great vintage Halloween moment with me and look at a gem of a book about a timeless character. Here is It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schultz, 1967.
In case you are unfamiliar with it, this book was actually published in association with the TV production by the same name. Close inspection of the illustrations actually reveals that it is most likely some poor reproductions of the movie art and because of this, I have often been tempted to get rid of it. However, I cannot. It is from 1967 and I really love that cover art, especially the typography and border, and oh, the dancing Snoopy! And it is actually very fun to read the story instead of view it, with the exception of one too long page spread of text. I did test the book on my 18 month old this morning, at her request, and she was spellbound from beginning to end (although I did improvise that aforementioned too long spread). The story is still cute and I appreciate the vintage celebration of a holiday that I am not totally in love with. You really cannot go wrong with Charlie Brown and his best friend Linus.
Surprisingly, Linus is actually the central figure in this story. I am pretty sure Charlie Brown fans all love Linus. How can you not with his devotion of friendship to Charlie Brown, his amazing patience with a complicated big sister, his affection for a blue blanket, and his ability to bring philosophical truth or sometimes just sincere faith to just about every situation?
The story begins with Linus composing his yearly letter to someone he calls “the Great Pumpkin.” No one else knows of or believes in this character, but Linus is unswayed in his endeavors. He believes that on Halloween night the Great Pumpkin will come to a pumpkin patch that is the most sincere and will reward all the good children with toys. Linus is determined to wait for him, and this year, Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally is too. The two set out to find the most sincere pumpkin patch while all the other kids don their costumes and begin the tricking and treating.
Of course, with every great Charlie Brown story, Snoopy makes his appearance as the great World War I flying ace in hot battle with the Red Baron.
The two stories may seem odd next to each other, but their inevitable collision is comical and perfect. Not to mention there are several great wordless spreads during Snoopy’s trek back from the battle that do a lot to salvage the art issue I have.
I did a lot of Peanuts comic reading as a kid. I can still remember their exact location in the local library which was in the middle of the adult fiction section and a bit daunting to peruse, but always rewarding. Despite the illustration production flaws in the book, the essence of this tale is lovely. Charles Schulz was a master storyteller whom has influenced many great current illustrators including Mo Willems. All the characters are so easy to relate to or at least recognize in your own friends and family.
I think there is some Schulz genius at play here to illustrate a story about a holiday and take it in a completely new and odd direction. Sure there are the glimpses of trick or treating and vintage-awesome costumes, but the invention of a child believing the holiday means something completely different is the perfect twist. I’ve never cared for the spooks and scares of the holiday, even as a kid who loved to dress up, but I have always enjoyed the candy and parties we have thrown instead. Why can’t there be a fictional giant pumpkin who brings children presents from a bag? What kid wouldn’t be up for another holiday full of gifts and added suspense? I think I prefer that version of Halloween myself come to think of it.
I hope you have a lovely Halloween night however you get to spend it. If nothing else, keep your eyes peeled for a very sincere pumpkin patch because who knows, Linus might be on to something.