Monday, May 17, 2010

SPARKY: The Life and Art of Charles Schulz

Last year, I joined Junior Library Guild for our library. I had cancelled the subscription when I started the job in the library because I didn't really understand the service they could provide. After talking to people on their staff, I began to understand how purchasing books from JLG could really help me with collection development.

Junior Library Guild reviews and selects books that would be appropriate for different age groups. But I do so much of that on my own, I didn't see the need. When I read and learned more though, I realized that I could decide which types of books JLG would provide for a discounted fee. I knew that our biographies and mysteries were outdated and those are not two areas that I keep up with myself. So I joined with those two areas, knowing that I'd receive a book each month in those categories. It has been such a great thing for us--we have great books in our library that I may never have noticed since they aren't always my favorite types.

Last month, I received one of my favorite new biographies--SPARKY: THE LIFE AND ART OF CHARLES SCHULZ by Beverly Gherman. This book is a small chapter book. Although it is about 120 pages, almost half of those pages are illustrations, photos and cartoons. This is a perfect biography for mid to upper elementary kids. It was also interesting for me to read as an adult so it is pretty much good for all ages.

The book has a fun look. Colorful with the feeling of The Peanuts Gang. No white pages with black ink that I could find. Instead, there are several colors used for fonts against a variety of backdrops. A fun read. The print is not small and very accessible for students who are just starting to read longer chapter books. Even the Table of Contents is done in a unique way to stay with the Peanuts theme. The book follows Charles Schulz (or Sparky as was his nickname) throughout his life. Photos from his childhood, stories of his family, career information and more are included. You really get to know Charles Schulz in this book. Throughout the book, the author has embedded Peanuts strips that connect in some ways to the information being shared. From the first ideas for the comic strip to the process of creating the first animated TV show of the Peanuts, this book is pretty comprehensive.

I love this book for so many reasons. I loved reading it myself. It was an interesting read about a talented person who I realized I knew very little about. As a teacher and librarian, I love the way that it is written and formatted. I think that it would make a good read aloud for people looking to add more nonfiction to their read aloud time. I also think it is a biography that is better than many chapter book length biographies I've seen. Even for kids who don't remember Peanuts the way we do, with the popularity of comics and graphic novels, the evolution of this artist will be very interesting.

Thanks to Junior Library Guild for this great addition to our Biography Section!

Betsy at Fuse #8 also reviewed this book.


  1. I so agree with your assessment on this book it was AWESOME! I loved his work and what a nice tribute to him. If you haven't read the Dr. Seuss Bio, Dr. Seuss and Mr. Giesel, give it a look to. Wonderful insight into the genius who changed kid lit forever! I love your blog! JM

  2. Thanks for sharing about JLG. As an elementary school librarian, I have considered using this service. I will definitely order for the next school year.

  3. I just ordered this one! I have my Peanuts collection from my childhood and can't wait to read this...

    also, Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life is one of my favorite books!


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