Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy 25th Calvin & Hobbes!

I love so much about Calvin and Hobbes.  When I was at UCLA, I taped a strip to my door and transferred it from room to room as my tenure increased and I went from a triple, to a double and finally to a single at the Co-Op where I lived.  When I finally moved to an apartment, I took my trusty, dusty strip with me and taped it to the wall above my desk, where it often gave me a smile as I'd write my grad student papers.  In the strip, Calvin is writing a book report he titles, "The Dynamics of Interbeing and Monological Imperatives in Dick & Jane:  A Study in Psychic Transrelational Gender Modes."  Writing, he says, is so much easier once you realize that its "purpose... is to inflate weak ideas, obscure poor reasoning and inhibit clarity."  Calvin confidently announces he's ready for academia, so long as he practices making his writing into an "intimidating and inpenetrable fog."

As I'd sit there grading papers or writing my own, this strip gave me the perspective I needed.  I've included it below, just in case you're in need of any perspective adjustment yourself at the moment. J

When my oldest daughter, Charlotte, began to read very young, one of the homeschool lists I was on recommended that gifted kids particularly loved Calvin and Hobbes.  Since the girl was reading way beyond her level at age six and I was having trouble finding books that challenged her reading ability, but were also appropriate for her maturity level, I jumped on that recommendation and began ordering used copies of all of Waterson's books.  I presented them one at a time to Charlotte and the girl gobbled them up much faster than I would've predicted.  I knew at the time she adored them -- she poured over them constantly -- but it wasn't until recently, when my younger daughter, Grace, started reading them, that I discovered Charlotte had memorized almost every strip. Grace would read aloud a particularly funny strip and before she could get to the punchline, Charlotte would recite it from across the room (annoying her little sis to no end).  The first few times, I figured maybe Grace had happened upon a few of Charlotte's favorites -- but no.  Charlotte pretty much knew them all.  In the spirit of sibling rivalry, Grace is now doing her best to master the canon!

I love that C&H is still part of my life in this way and I almost love that my kids fight over who gets to read the books now.  I also, almost love that they play their version of Calvinball, wildly, in the middle of the living room.  Of course, they call it Charlotteball (poor Gracie never gets Marquee status).  I'm less wild about Charlotte's secret club G.R.O.S.S...  in Charlotte-speak, this stands for Get Rid Of Slimy Sisters (as opposed to the original, Get Rid Of Slimy girlS)!

One part of the Calvin and Hobbes legacy that is very special to me is that it has stayed (for all 25 years since it's inception) what it always was -- a comic strip.  Watterson never franchised it into toys or TV shows.  He talks a bit about this choice in a recent interview, here.  I love that integrity.  As much as I love J.K. Rowling, I so wish she had never sold the movie rights to her books.  The movies are great for what they are, but I really liked that pre-movies, in order to be in the "wizarding know" you had to read, and read.... and read.  She'd created such a phenomenon, inspiring even the most reluctant readers to devour thousands of pages of prose.  Unfortunately, as I've found in my Harry Potter classes, a good proportion of the kids, don't bother with the books at all now.  They're perfectly happy with just the movies and that's such a shame.  The movies leave out so many subtleties of the plot, but more than that... I had so loved the idea of all those kids with their noses glued to the books -- realizing there was a certain kind of enjoyment you could ONLY get from a book.

But, obviously.... I digress.  Happy 25th Birthday Calvin and Hobbes -- may you inspire and entertain readers of all ages (and stripes) forevermore!  Here's my college favorite:


  1. Big thanks to Shauna for the interview link!

  2. What a wonderful comic it was, I used to read it when I was 7. It is really too bad about kids watching the movies and not reading the books. Sorry about not being there on Monday Miss Holly (I was sick) I will email my finishes report to you on Sunday.

  3. Hey Solomon -- Hope you're feeling better. Final drafts aren't due until we're back after Thanksgiving, but if you want help with your rough draft -- go ahead and email :)

  4. I love Calvin & Hobbes! My oldest son loved reading the books when he was in middle school. I still need a dose of C&H occasionally.