It is Mr. Michaelis's achievement in these pages that he leaves us with both a shrewd appreciation of Schulz's minimalist art and a sympathetic understanding of Schulz the man. He shows us how Schulz's sense of vocation as a young child, fueled by a fierce ambition, led him to the career he'd always wanted, and how he gradually assimilated a host of influences to find a voice that was inimitably his own. He also shows us how Schulz constructed an anomalous fictional world that captured the public imagination, eventually reaching readers in some 75 countries, 2,600 newspapers and 21 languages. At times the author's prodigious research may overwhelm the casual reader, who may well wonder if we really need to know about all of Schulz's unrequited crushes, all his panic attacks and spasms of self-doubt. But Mr. Michaelis, who had access to Schulz's papers, has done a fluent job of weaving the many facts and anecdotes he's collected into an engaging narrative that underscores how the artist's solitary childhood in Minnesotaas the only child of a father preoccupied by work and a withholding, erratic mothershaped both his insecurities and his will to succeed.
The New York Times
Michaelis, who had the cooperation of the Schulz family, tells this story brightly and engagingly, if not always succinctly and without repetition…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.
The New York Times Book Review
…sensitive and satisfying…Michaelis, also the author of a biography of artist N.C. Wyeth, uses strips as illustrations, a clever way of showing just how very adult these children were in their concernsand how brilliant it was to endow children with real, adult struggles and anxieties that could be explored without becoming threatening. If Schulz seemed wise, it's because he could tease out profound human concerns without taking sides. Whether Michaelis's portrayal is too dark, as some of the Schulz children have claimed, is hard to say. It seems clear that Schulz was often anxious and difficult, but he also clung to his melancholy as an artistic tool: He feared that without it, he couldn't draw. (His anxieties may also have helped him remain himself while earning millions a year.) Really, he was all his characters: philosophical, gentle Linus; remote, artistic Schroeder; stubborn, grandiose Lucy; irrepressible, sexy Snoopy. One thing that might be missing from this otherwise fascinating bookand maybe this is what the children feelis an explanation for the joy and pleasure that shine through his work. Where, in his lonely Minnesota upbringing, did Charles Schulz learn to let Snoopy dance?
The Washington Post
Holter Graham's reading is clear and well paced, and he makes good use of pauses and emphasis for emotional effect as we peer into the miserable life a genius-the fabulously successful and enormously influential creator of the Peanuts gang. Schulz thought of himself as ordinary rather than brilliant, as "melancholy" rather than "depressed." But no kind of unhappiness ever interfered with his 50 years of daily cartooning. Michaelis shows us that "[t]o the very end, his life had been inseparable from his art" and that his art reflected not only his own changing thought and circumstances but also America's political and social shifts from one decade to the next. There are two minor limitations to the audio version: it's missing the 240 Peanutsstrips that illustrated and illuminated Michaelis's text, and one wishes that this captivating and well-researched biography had been unabridged. Schulz's very last Peanutsstrip was published the day he died. Simultaneous release with the Harper hardcover (Reviews, July 23). (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
For more than 50 years, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the Peanuts gang have entertained readers in the United States and throughout the world, appearing in newspapers, books, and films. Even following the death in 2000 of their creator, Charles M. Schulz, many newspapers continue to run the 17,897 comic strips he produced. But few people know anything about the creative genius himself, a man who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar period. An intensely private man, Schulz told people that to read his comic strips was to know him; in fact, that would only tell them part of the story. In this painstakingly and thoroughly researched biography, Michaelis (N.C. Wyeth: A Biography) brings to light and allows readers to reimagine the life of one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. Strategically interspersing 240 of Schulz's comic strips throughout the text, he demonstrates how much of Schulz's art reflected his life and develops a clearer picture of this extraordinary American. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. [On Oct. 29, in its first American Masterstribute to a comic book artist, PBS will air a feature-length documentary about Schulz.-Ed.].
Mark Alan Williams
The idolized comic strip and its revered creator, conjoined American avatars of the second half of the 20th century, are both fully explored in this shared biography. As Michaelis (N.C. Weyth, 1998, etc.) demonstrates with the help of many cartoons, the antics of Peanuts' characters formed a clear autobiography of Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000). The barber's son from Minnesota was born to create a comic strip, if nothing else. He was a dweeby, dreamy lad called "Sparky" from infancy-an odd nickname for a serious youth who ignited little excitement. An abstemious churchgoer, he was timid around girls, especially pretty redheads. Sparky was determined, though, to have a cartoonist's career. Home from the Army in 1945, he worked as a correspondence-school art instructor. Early on, he knew three Charlie Browns: One was a high-school friend; one was an art-school colleague who became a bit odd as his fictional namesake became celebrated; the third was an ecclesiastic. The energetic first Mrs. Schulz, usually managing Sparky, morphed into Lucy. The flourishing Peanuts strip provided a lavish California home and studio, spawned endorsements, television specials and books. Happiness was not, however, a warm bank account. With an upscale ice rink came tax problems, divorce and remarriage. The world's most successful and rewarded cartoonist, the man who coined the term "security blanket," nursed anxieties. "Sparky really didn't give a damn about people," one friend noted. Schulz was the subject of many articles and interviews, so much of his story is known, but this fine, exhaustive text is well-organized and knowledgeable. Whether or not Peanuts was inspired, as fans insist, or just insipid,Michaelis offers considerable insight into the semiotics of comics and the psyche of a master of the craft. All that's needed about a prodigy of American cultural history. Agent: Melaine Jackson/Melanie Jackson Agency
“An insightful rendering of the life of this American treasure.”
“Michaelis takes us on a wondrous journey through the worlds of Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz.”
“After you read this book you will know the genius that went into every single line that Charles Schulz drew.”
"An extraordinary achievement . . . that shrinks Schulz down to human size and enlarges our love of his work."
“This fall’s breakout biography.”
“An extraordinary achievement . . . that shrinks Schulz down to human size and enlarges our love of his work.”