December 16, 2021


A-Maze-ing Peanuts. By Charles M. Schulz and Joe Wos. Andrews McMeel. $12.99.

     A very clever reuse and updating of the adventures of classic Peanuts characters – one that turns out to be a bit too clever for its own good – Joe Wos’ set of Peanuts-based mazes is a great way to revisit some classic elements of the half-century run of the strip, a great way to remember just how good Schulz (1922-2000) was at giving characters individuated personalities without any dialogue being needed, and a pleasant (if not great) chance to play a batch of traditional get-through-the-maze pencil games that incorporate Peanuts characters and themes in various ways.

     The chance to revisit beloved and long-familiar characters is the main attraction here for those who know Peanuts. But the book is presumably for young readers, who will hopefully enjoy the mazes even if they are not highly familiar with Schulz’s work. However, there is nothing in the book explaining Schulz or Peanuts for those who may be less knowledgeable about the cartoonist and strip, so A-Maze-ing Peanuts may be of greater interest to adults than to the children for whom it presumably was created.

     The mazes themselves have some issues. There are 100 in all, divided into five sections, presumably according to difficulty (since the sections are labeled as “levels”). But the differences in complexity are not significant. What is significant is a convention of the book that is never explained and that readers/users will have to find out on their own – or by looking at some of the maze solutions, all of which are helpfully provided at the back of the book. That convention is that it is necessary to travel over and even through the Peanuts characters in virtually every maze in order to solve it: yes, the characters are solid and appear to block various pathways, but they can and in fact must be drawn on for a maze to be solved. This can be very confusing. For instance, Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help 5¢” booth takes up most of maze #88, and the path to solving the maze requires drawing a line right in the middle of Lucy’s face, between her nose and mouth. Maze #45, featuring Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, similarly requires travel across Linus, between his nose and mouth. Maze #29, featuring Snoopy and Woodstock, requires drawing a line from behind Snoopy’s ear, across his face, and out through a place near his nose. And so on.

     These draw-on-the-characters elements are not per se unfair, since Wos modifies Schulz’s art by erasing a small part of the line delineating a character’s features at the point where a maze-player needs to enter or exit. But the net effect of following the mazes this way is an awkward one: it feels as if maze-players need to scribble on the characters in order to get through the mazes, and that is not far from the truth. And the results can at times be quite odd, as in maze #17, showing Charlie Brown playing marbles: the maze-player must draw a line cutting his head in half; and maze #43, which shows Charlie Brown drawing – here the maze path requires creating a line that lops off the upper third of his skull, as if giving him a lobotomy. This is not the sort of thing with which lovers of Peanuts are likely to be comfortable – although it may not bother children who are less familiar with Schulz and his strip.

     What is most enjoyable in A-Maze-ing Peanuts is certainly a matter of viewpoint, or of age. Seeing the characters ensconced in mazes is really a lot of fun: Snoopy lying atop his doghouse with multiple portrayals of Woodstock all around (#22); Lucy famously pulling away the football when Charlie Brown tries to kick it, in a maze featuring footballs all over the place (#36); Snoopy happily riding a skateboard in the middle of a maze filled with swirls (#49); Snoopy as the World War I Flying Ace, seeking the Red Baron (#64); an entire maze filled with Charlie Brown poses (#81); an entire page filled with Snoopy in Joe Cool positions (#87); and so on. All this is pleasurable for those immersed in the Peanuts world – but for those focused mainly on the “maze” part of A-Maze-ing Peanuts, there is less here that is out of the ordinary or special. And the mazes themselves are in no way unusual for their type. So before purchase, it is worth considering what will happen to the book after all the mazes have been done. Some readers/users will want to keep it for the nostalgia value of the Schulz illustrations and the cleverness with which they are incorporated into many of the mazes. Other readers/users, focusing on the word “maze” in the middle of the book’s title, will be ready to discard it and move on to something else after completing these 100 journeys.

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