Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Review: There's Treasure Everywhere by Bill Watterson

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: "I Guess We Learned a Lesson, Huh?"  "I'll Say.  Smooth Talking a Teacher Really Pays Off."
Cons: "I'll See You in Your Room Momentarily."

The Bottom Line:
The laughs keep coming
In this brilliant collection
Sure to entertain

"You Should Always Save Hyperbole Until you Really Need It."

Sadly, we are approaching 20 years since the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes stopped running in news papers.  Fortunately, we still have wonderful collections like There's Treasure Everywhere to keep us laughing.

In case you have missed this stupendous comic strip, it revolves around Calvin, your typical six-year-old, and Hobbes, his not so typical stuffed tiger.  You see, while the rest of the world sees Hobbes as a stuffed tiger, we know the truth, he is really alive and Calvin's best friend.  That is if your best friend will throw snowballs at you and wait to pounce on you when you get home from school.  And, while Calvin isn't that smart in school (he gets barfy face stickers), he is actually pretty astute when it comes to culture.

For most of 1994, Bill Watterson took a sabbatical from creating the strip, and that nine month gap is reflected here.  It's why we get fall, winter, spring, and then suddenly it's January again going toward spring.  That weird time jump hardly matters, however, because the laughs are plentiful.

Some collections of this strip feature more stories of the messes that Calvin and Hobbes get into.  This one doesn't, however.  Yes, we get a couple, like Calvin inventing a brain enhancer to come up with a topic for his paper.  Then there's the math homework he forgets to do until two in the morning.  But for the most part these strips stand on their own.  Yes, there are some familiar themes like Calvin's snowman art or adventures with his homicidal bike but the several days in a row we see these recurring gags don’t really tell a story.  For example, for a week Calvin tries to get the people in his life to sign waivers about their relationship with him.  Each strip is a different character, but all of them are hilarious.

Not that I'm complaining.  You will laugh at these strips.  After all, what does it say about Calvin that Hobbes is the smarter of the pair.  Hobbes is always making the observations that Calvin should make but just ignores.  Calvin's dad has a sarcastic streak like you wouldn't believe.  We get plenty of run ins with Mo, the bully in Calvin's class.  Susie, Calvin's next door neighbor, is also around waiting to insult Calvin (not that he doesn't usually deserve it).

And I mentioned the social commentary.  Whether it's Calvin's take on modern art (as shown via snowmen), Hobbes's take on advertising, or his dad's take on modern living in general, it's all pretty funny.  Sadly, it's also fairly accurate even 20 years later.  Our culture hasn't changed much, at least not for the better.

Despite the time jumps, you still get about nine months worth of strips in this book.  The daily strips are still black and white, but the Sunday strips are reprinted in color.  There is some great artwork in these and Bill Watterson often really lets his, and Calvin's, imagination soar.  But even the daily strips are filled with fun art work that adds to the humor of the words.

And that's why this strip still holds up 20 years later.  You will laugh at Calvin and Hobbes no matter whether you are reading it for the first time or the three hundred billion gazillioneth time.  That makes There's Treasure Everywhere well worth buying.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.  It is also part of The 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off.

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