Who'd have thought that Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000) would be worthy of a major biography? Yet the late creator of the Peanuts comic strip might rightly be considered one of the greatest authors of all time his 50 years of tireless work is engrained deeply into the international consciousness. Schulz and Peanuts, by N.C. Wyeth biographer David Michaelis, is the product of nearly seven years of research and firsthand interviews. Not long after Schulz's death, Michaelis got busy digging through his extensive archives, then traced the great cartoonist's life back through his staunch German-American Minnesota roots. Schulz always seemed warm, avuncular and pretty buttoned-down he was one American cartoonist the country got to know at least somewhat via media coverage but Michaelis goes deeper, and with the help of 200 or so cartoons from the dailies, connects the dots between the real Schulz and the minidramas played out among his characters. Schulz wanted to be a cartoonist early on, and, eschewing college, learned his craft through correspondence courses. At the age of 20, he endured the loss of his mother to cancer and served a critical life-changing stint as a World War II Army sergeant before making an indelible mark with his subtle wit and charming drawings. Schulz's first marriage and other romantic relationships receive extensive dissection here, as does the man's essential character and psychological quirks. The book occasionally seems bogged down with too much family history, but ultimately this aspect of Michaelis' approach to his subject helps put the art and the artist into perspective. It's a rewarding and surprisingly trenchant read and a must-have for Peanuts fans.

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