“David Michaelis’ challenge in Schulz and Peanuts is to chronicle the life of a popular man who led an intentionally dull life without ending up with a dull book. The author succeeds in part because we knew so little about Schulz beyond the tidy public image he constructed for himself: the son of a St. Paul, Minn., barber; the quiet, religious lad with the ironic nickname ”Sparky” that he kept into adulthood; the teetotaling family man, happiest in front of his drawing board.

Schulz and Peanuts is…as meticulous in its evocation of a sensitive soul’s temperament as any first-rate cartoon by Sparky himself.”

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“In many cases the situations facing his characters are echoes of events or feelings from his own life – alluding to them, but translating them into imaginary form. But at other times, the cartoons prove to be almost diary-like records of personal relationships. It seems that everyone who knew Schulz’s first wife recognized her as the inspiration for Lucy. The average reader had no clue, of course.”

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“There is much to enjoy and admire in “Schulz and Peanuts,” a biography of Charles Schulz by David Michaelis (HarperCollins; $34.95). The basic story, of how a not conspicuously gifted but very determined barber’s son from St. Paul, Minnesota, rose to become the richest cartoonist of all time, warms the heart in traditional American fashion.”

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“Throughout the book Michaelis maintains affection for his subject without losing sight of how exasperating and narcissistic he could be. And the smartest thing he has done is to pepper his pages with actual strips from “Peanuts,” dozens of them, usually without comment or footnote or even date: an appropriate strip just turns up in the middle of a paragraph that happens to be talking about something similar. Sometimes it’s an illustration, sometimes a wry comment. The effect is to continually remind us of why Schulz matters in the first place, and of the potential not just for humor but for feeling and eloquence in the odd and oddly persistent art form where he made his home.”

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“…It’s a strange and interesting story, and Mr. Michaelis, the author of a 1998 biography of artist N.C. Wyeth, paces the narrative well, offering many insights and surprising events from Schulz’s life. Undoubtedly the most fascinating part of the book is the juxtaposition of biographical information and reproduced “Peanuts” strips. Here we see how literally Schulz sometimes depicted actual situations and events….

Reading these strips in light of the information Mr. Michaelis unearths, I was struck less by the fact that Schulz drew on his troubled first marriage for material than by the sympathy that he shows for his tormentor and by his ability to poke fun at himself.”


creator of “Calvin and Hobbes”

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“…Nearly 250 Peanuts strips are woven into the biography, demonstrating just how much of his life story Schulz poured into the cartoon. In one sequence, Snoopy’s crush on a girl dog is revealed as a barely disguised retelling of the artist’s extramarital affair. Michaelis is especially strong in recounting Schulz’s artistic development, teasing out the influences on his unique characterization of children. And Michaelis makes plain the full impact of Peanuts’ first decades and how much it puzzled and unnerved other cartoonists. This is a fascinating account of an artist who devoted his life to his work in the painful belief that it was all he had.”