Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review - "Bluffton"

Along with being a book nerd, I am a film nerd.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved movies.  In particular, I adore silent movies, those artifacts from long ago that represent the beginning of a massive industry and artistic medium.  And one of my favorite people from that silent era is Buster Keaton, the physical comedy genius who defied gravity and the laws of physics with his daring and unbelievable stunts and wacky, inspired contraptions.  So it was with great joy I learned that master graphic storyteller Matt Phelan was coming out with an historical graphic novel about Buster Keaton.  The  film nerd in me was greatly satisfied, and the librarian in me can’t wait to share this book!

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster tells the story of a young man, Henry Harrison, and the friendships he strikes up when a vaudeville troupe takes up residence nearby for the summer.  Henry is introduced to Buster Keaton, then the youngest member of The Three Keatons.  Buster’s job is to be the straight man, always being thrown about, but never cracking a smile.  They called him the human mop.  Henry and Buster’s summer is full of pranks and baseball, but when the weather turns towards fall, it’s time for the performers to move on and for Henry to go back to school, and back to helping out at his family’s hardware store.  The next summer brings much of the same, with Henry begging Buster to teach him the tricks of his trade.  The pair shares the ups and downs that come from being a not-quite-an-adult, and each of them grows up to find their place in the world.

Matt Phelan must love history.  He has beautifully illustrated the dust bowl in The Storm in the Barn and the turn of the century adventurers in Around the World.  I might be prejudiced because of the subject matter, but I think this might be Phelan’s best.  He perfectly captures the time period, and the emotional time period of young men growing up, sometimes not knowing exactly where they’re going.  Phelan’s watercolors evoke an idyllic slice of summertime that can’t help but make you nostalgic.

If this book encourages even one child at my library to look into the films of Buster Keaton and the silent era, I’ll be a very happy camper.

Bluffton: My Summer with Buster by Matt Phelan
2013, Candlewick Press
Final copy provided by publisher for review

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