September 03, 2020


Calendars (desk for 2021): Get It Together! with Sarah’s Scribbles; The Good Advice Cupcake! Andrews McMeel. $15.99 each.

Calendars (page-a-day for 2021): Adulthood Is a Myth (Sarah’s Scribbles); The Good Advice Cupcake! Andrews McMeel. $18.99 (Scribbles); $15.99 (Advice).

     Please, please, please, will somebody call 2020 off and get us past the unending series of awfulnesses that the year has brought and continues to bring? The great 20th-century cartoonist Walt Kelly once had his Pogo characters come up with a plan to get more done in a day by expanding the day to 32 hours – a simple task if each hour lasts only 45 minutes. Unfortunately, nobody has come up with a similar, real-world-usable way of compressing 2020 sufficiently to get all of us through it and out of it already. Except…well, maybe there is a small ray of hope to be found in two new Andrews McMeel desktop calendars, Get It Together! with Sarah’s Scribbles and The Good Advice Cupcake! Yes, these are 2021 items, but they are 16-month weekly/monthly planners, therefore allowing lucky (or simply exhausted) users to start looking past 2020, and at a hopefully much better year to come, as early as September. Thank you, cartoonists of the 21st century.

     Both Sarah’s Scribbles (by Sarah Anderson) and The Good Advice Cupcake! (complete with inevitable exclamation point) are filled with that combination of the snarky and the sweet that frequently defines contemporary cartooning. Sarah’s Scribbles chronicles the everyday life of an introverted twentysomething woman, drawn with enormous and very expressive eyes and shown on each two-page spread of the spiral-bound desktop calendar in a typical adventure – for instance, being in the middle of reading a book (shown as being much larger than she is), then having the shadow of a new book cast over her, then drifting away with the new book while leaving the other unfinished. Elsewhere, there are five panels showing “my work desk” at different times of day, neat and empty at 9 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. – and cluttered, piled up and tooth-gnashingly full at 1 a.m. And there is a bar graph called “My Abilities” showing cartoon Sarah standing atop a bar labeled “Intelligence,” hopping nimbly to “Memory,” zipping along to “Creativity,” then leaping to “Time Management” and falling, falling, falling while asking “where is it?” These “adventures” reach out well beyond twentysomething women to introverts of any age and perhaps to extroverts as well – and the small drawings of cartoon Sarah that adorn the top of every page are an added attraction (she is dressed as a vampire, complete with blood dripping from her mouth, for October 2020; seen opening a box of chocolates larger than her body for February 2021; and so forth). The well-designed calendar has plenty of room for daily notes, with each week offered in three columns labeled “Appointments/Misc.,” “Stuff to Do,” and “My Social Life.” Back-of-the-book pages for Notes, Goals, Ideas and more, a neat storage place on the inside back cover for receipts or whatnot, and a page of amusing adhesive stickers at the front of the whole production, make for a highly attractive, useful and amusing calendar that can start everyone on a hoped-for better year right now.

     The lie-flat, spiral-bound book design, the stickers in front and pouch in back, are also present in The Good Advice Cupcake! But this compendium of comments from sentient baked goods is laid out a bit differently. Each day of each week gets seven blank lines for taking notes; a blank box actually labeled “Notes” appears on each page, along with a small grid labeled “Kick-Ass Habits” – with a place to list eight of them and check each one off every day of the week (for instance, put a check mark for each day of exercise, doughnut-eating, or whatever); and each two-page spread features the big-eyed smiling cupcake and/or another denizen of the cupcake world, such as a cinnamon bun or a kitten or a loaf of bread. There are no verbal gibes here (well, not many: one page features cupcake giving a hug and saying, “I love you a latke!” to a potato pancake); and small seasonal decorations are sprinkled attractively around the pages – acorns and a turkey for November 2020, for example, and a rain cloud and umbrella for April 2021. The Internet version of the cupcake and friends features a fair amount of asterisked profanity, as on the cover of this desktop planner, where the cupcake is saying, “Get your life together, you messy b*tch!” But the actual pages of the planner skew much more toward the sweet than toward the sassy, irreverent or profane. For those, cupcake fans can turn to the page-a-day version of The Good Advice Cupcake! In fact, fans can turn to it again and again, since this is one of those calendars with a different drawing and comment for every weekday (Saturdays and Sundays share a single page). Yet there is considerable sweetness in the page-a-day version, too: “Fur babies are the best babies,” says one page that shows a huge-eyed, swaddled bit of animal cuteness; “You’re stronger than you realize,” the cupcake promises on another page; “Follow your dreams!!!” appears with three exclamation points on another day; and on another is the comment, “I’m waiting for you to realize how adorable you are” – and that one has the cupcake looking distinctly irritated about all the waiting. The whole point of this calendar is, after all, “good advice” of one sort or another. “Be #1 at being ‘that b*tch.’” “Don’t tell me to chill!” (with the most explosive cupcake anywhere). “Stay weird.” “Follow your dreams, m*therf*ckr!” “Be yourself even if that means getting weird looks.” “Take a deep breath and let your insecurities go the f*ck away!” Clearly, this is self-help and self-assertiveness with less treacle than usual, and a good deal more attitude. The page-a-day calendar is only for the actual year 2021, but for anybody needing cupcake-style encouragement immediately, the desktop calendar can start the process and the page-a-day one can kick in on January 1. And not a moment too soon.

     Sarah’s Scribbles comes in a page-a-day, starting-January-1 version too, and an unusually designed one. Most page-a-day calendars measure about six inches horizontally and five inches vertically. Not Sarah’s. It comes in a slipcase rather than a box, and when you slip it out, you have a construct that measures four inches horizontally and more than six-and-a-half inches vertically. It looks a bit like a hardcover book, and in fact the hard front cover folds around to the back and tucks into a tab to create an easel on which each daily cartoon (with weekends sharing a single page) is displayed. The very clever design somehow seems particularly apt for Sara’s Scribbles, and the fact that the whole thing is purple also seems just right. Each page features a multi-panel comic, sometimes as few as two panels but often more. One page, for instance, displays cartoon Sarah through the seasons, showing her dressed for Spring (“casual and pretty”), Summer (“light and fun”), Fall (“comfy, cozy layers”), and Winter (“ball of hatred trying to stay warm”). Another page comments on watching YouTube makeup tutorials until “my makeup skills are flawless” but “my life, however, remains a disaster.” Another starts with the “click click click” of selfies, continues with two panels reviewing the photos, and ends with “delete delete delete.” Another starts with “there goes the first week of summer” as cartoon Sarah gazes into the distance where she sees, looming, the giant pumpkin of Halloween. Another shows an angel creating “a pure light being for the humans” – a dog – after which the devil presents humans with a cat. The offbeat amusement and cleverness of Sarah’s Scribbles can be just the sort of thing to counteract the ups and downs of everyday life (using the page-a-day calendar) while planning ways to make life better (using the desktop planner) – always hoping that 2021, unlike 2020, does not have a whole host of horrors and monstrosities lurking in the months to come.

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