Sparky by Beverly Gherman

sparkyCindy: The Peanuts comic strip is a national treasure and one that has long been a cross-over read between age groups. As a teen in the 70s–after years of following the Peanuts gang in the newspapers–I began collecting Woodstock memorabilia, loving the goofy little bird who flew topsy-turvy. Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schulz (Chronicle, 2010) salutes the style of the comic strip in its bright colors and simple text for upper elementary readers and clearly brings to life the man behind the art. There are many details about Charles Schulz’s life that will intrigue his young fans: Yes, there really was a little red-haired girl in his life, and her rejection influenced the character of Charlie Brown. But I was fascinated by the story behind the Sparky nickname. Before Charles was even a week old, a relative called him “Sparky” saying the baby looked like “the sad-eyed horse from the popular comic strip Barney Google who unexpectedly became the big winner of a race.” The nickname stuck and certainly was prophetic for a man who would become a cartoonist himself, and one of the most successful. I’m not a fan of solid color tinted photographs, but everything else about this biography makes me happy.

Lynn: Biographies for the younger set aren’t all that common and here’s one that does so much right. Start with a terrific cover that is impossible to resist, sprinkle well-chosen comic strips throughout the pages and tell a wonderful story about a shy boy with no self-confidence who grew up to live his dream. Its a combination that is guaranteed to attract and hold reader’s attention and you can’t ask for more than that. I always think that one of the inherent characteristics of biographies are the life lessons that readers can absorb too. Here those lessons are nicely integrated and not didactic yet it is clear that Schultz’s work ethic, determination and dedication to his craft were a major part of his success.  Gherman takes a fascinating subject and crafts a well-told story that will have young readers completely engaged. Look for requests for more books just like this one!

nonfictionmondayToday’s Nonfiction Monday blog round up is hosted by Abby (the) Librarian. Check it out to read other blog posts featuring nonfiction books for children and teens.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Sparky by Beverly Gherman"

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  1. I just read this as well and will be posting my own review for next Monday’s Non-fiction Monday! I grew up on Peanuts and even sent one of my own “books” to Schulz when I was around 7 years old, and got a personal letter back from him! I remember being most impressed by his own Snoopy stationery–at the time that sort of thing wasn’t commercially available all over.

  2.' Brenda Kahn says:

    This looks wonderful! I have quite a few Peanuts fans at my middle school. I know they’re going to love this. It’s definitely going in my book order at school. You’ve also provided me with an idea for a birthday gift for one of my sisters. She has always loved Peanuts, Snoopy, in particular. Thanks for the heads up.


  3. Brenda, My mom read this last week after I finished the blog post and she enjoyed it. It would make a good gift book for fans. I’m definitely buying copies for both of my middle schools too.–Cindy

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