Mr. Valentine, This Is the Other Place

We've talked about the Great Ones, those authors who have the amazing and magical ability to connect to children in books that are honest and beautiful and strange. This post is about…the Other Ones. Those authors who reach out and have a profound and deep connection with kids, but are (to adults anyway) terrible and make you want to weep and hide.

I've talked about them before. You know who I'm talking about. The Berenstain Bears. Strawberry Shortcake. And today's focus, which is (I hope) written more in stunned bemusement than in bitterness. Because I'm talking about Garfield.

Shudder.

What the heck is it? WHY do they love it so? I don't know. All I do know is: it's close to universal. This past summer one kid brought The Big Book of Garfield to our house for some reason, and soon all five kids present (various friends and siblings) were gathered under a blanket reading it out loud to each other. Which is sweet, it really is. And given that I don't have to read them myself (yes, they are an amazing boon to those having trouble reading), I really have nothing to complain about. But I do have the enduring mystery of it all to trouble my mind.

Why—why? It's not that they identify with Garfield. Several years ago (yes, they're appealing across the time and space continuum, beware) a group of kids was walking down the street with me, retelling each other Garfield comics (am I hanging out with the wrong crowd?) and part of it was they were all putting Garfield down. "Garfield is so dumb!" "Garfield is the dumbest ever!" or the particularly cutting "Garfield is so dumb he thinks one plus one equals zero." Ooh, burn!

But as much as they were bagging on him (do people still say that?), two of them were clutching battered copies of collections to read aloud to each other once they got to whereever it was we were walking.

What is up with this? And: bonus points if you recognize the reference in the title (and we all know how valuable bonus points are).

9 thoughts on “Mr. Valentine, This Is the Other Place

  1. This is so funny, because I was completely obsessed with Garfield when I was a kid, along side of Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes. I still love to read the other two, but Garfield is totally the worst. So not funny, but I loved it. Let me promise you that is it something you grow out of.

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  2. I think Garfield resonates because its “primal”. He has a favorite food, he hates the vet, he has a sibling he resents/tries to get rid of. Garfield flinging food into his mouth appeals on the same level as Cookie Monster saying “gimme cookie!”
    At least that is my feeling. (From someone who also loved Garfield as a child, still loves Calvin and Hobbes, and Bloom County)
    The popular series at the library for little girls seems to be the Rainbow Magic Series *ptui! ptui!*
    Fortunately, kids still like Asterix and Tintin too…

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  3. My kids (8 and 5) both love Garfield, too. Me, not so much. But they were absolutely thrilled when I served lasagna for dinner this week because it’s Garfield’s favorite. Yeesh.

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