4 Reasons Your Children Should Read “Calvin and Hobbes”

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I shouldn’t have to give you reasons as to why you should let your kids read the Calvin and Hobbes comics unless — you’ve never even read Calvin and Hobbes?

Have a seat. We’ve got some work to do …

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Calvin and Hobbes was a daily comic strip written and illustrated by Bill Waterson between 1985-‘95 and centered on young Calvin. Calvin is a sarcastic, overly imaginative, adventure-loving 6-year-old who gets himself and his sardonic, philosophical stuffed tiger in bunches of trouble. (Hobbes the stuffed tiger only comes to life when adults aren’t around.)

Together, they are quite the mischievous duo, creating games like Calvin Ball with outrageously ridiculous rules, and initiating clubs like G.R.O.S.S (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS). Growing up, I used to love reading the comics. Calvin’s innocent wit and Hobbes’ matter-of-fact reactions to Cal’s absurd notions strike a unique balance rarely presented in comics, one that kids can only benefit from.

Not convinced? Here are four reasons to hand your kid a Calvin and Hobbes anthology right now:

1. Calvin’s vocabulary.

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Calvin’s rather advanced command of language had me running to the dictionary every couple of comics. Eventually, I had the dictionary by my side when reading Calvin and Hobbes. Needless to say, my own vocabulary expanded. Granted, I don’t use these words as often as I should in adulthood, but I have a deeper grasp on language in general. There are even sites dedicated to using Calvin and Hobbes as SAT practice.

2. Calvin’s antics.

calvin&hobbesCalvin’s has two main goals in life, at least one of which is met in every comic: get into trouble executing some cockamamie scheme or spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, both involving his tiger friend. Their adventures are fun for kids to follow, especially when they involve other characters, like Susie, Calvin’s 6-year-old neighbor, or Rosalyn, his college-aged baby sitter.

The result is hysterical, especially for Hobbes, who plays witness to Calvin’s spastic behavior. Rather than encourage Calvin to tone it down, Hobbes eggs him on, chiding him to get more extreme with his antics. At first blush, this may seem counter-intuitive to setting a good example for young readers, but deeper examination reveals a child’s psyche at work, testing boundaries and investigating the world around him. Remember: Calvin is at imaginative play here. Sparking a child’s imagination is always a good thing.

3. Calvin and Hobbes’ friendship.

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Calvin and Hobbes share such a strong  bond (think Mark Wahlberg and his stuffed Ted, minus the profanity), one that children often experience with their friends or pets. Despite the fact that Calvin and Hobbes sometimes beat each other up and argue about the slightest things, at the end of the day, they love each other like brothers. This sort of friendship teaches your kids that loyalty is paramount in a friendship, no matter the differences you might have.

As always, it’s important to remember that Hobbes is not alive, and can easily be interpreted as Calvin’s alter-ego, the subtext being a child’s best friend should, first and foremost, be him or herself.

4. Calvin’s world view.

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Calvin’s view of his surroundings is remarkable. He will argue with his teacher about the education system (even if it is just to get out of doing his homework). Still, Calvin stands up for his beliefs and will make his case against his educators, parents, Hobbes, anyone who crosses him.

When more introspective and quiet, Calvin shows great appreciation for the world around him. There are times when he and Hobbes sit back and contemplate life’s depth and meaning. It’s quite nice when they settle down and have long chats about … life.

It’s astonishing that a feature film hasn’t been made of this fantastic duo. Which may be a good thing. Sitting alone, or with a parent, reading strip after strip, opens up a wonderful universe for children, one in which they can relate to a child trying hard to make sense of the swirling, colorful and troubling world around him.

18 Comments

  1. Chris Nunez

    WHAT? You mean it wasn’t a philosophical dialogue for adults… a comparison of two differing philosophies inter-playing off of each other? I guess you’ll be suggesting I should not have taken it so seriously?

    • Cochise Harrison

      Lol. Yeah I almost forgot about that. Didn’t notice till I was grown.

  2. Leslie Jones

    I have loved Calvin and Hobbes from the start. Always an educating strip to read.

  3. Novel_Ink

    I’ve felt this way for quite some time. Even at the age of 27 I still reread some of the books on occasion. It’s one of the best comics ever for sure and to view as just a comic is doing it a great disservice as brought out by the writer. If you want to find out why there was never a film made of the comic as well as the surprising absence of officially sanctioned merchandise read up the comic and Bill Watterson. It’s pretty interesting.

  4. Ivor

    Calvin would probably be about 35 years old today? They need to bring him back — with kids of his own. (Payback is a b*tch, Calvin!) 🙂

    • Peter Giesbrecht

      Look up Hobbes and Bacon…. There are only a few of those strips but they’re also in a similar vein.

      • meatmountain

        mmm… bacon strips….

    • Wiredwizard

      Someone is doing a comic strip called Calvin & Company showing the adventures of now married Calvin, his wife Suzie & their 2 kids. It’s pretty fun to read though it doesn’t have quite the depth the original C&H had.

  5. Tora

    That’s great! My brother was really into Calvin and Hobbes when we were kids and bequeathed (sent them with our mom) his books (large compilations of strips? 4 or so of them) to my son when he was little. I had my 7 year old son try them out in the last couple months and they were immediately a huge hit. He loves reading them on his own, he just reads through them again and again. I think he passes over the more difficult words, but I’m sure he’s learning through context. 🙂 I should probably sit and read them with him some time to see if he learns more that way, but he’s so enjoying them as it is, nice to know there are useful lessons to be learned. I enjoy them, but not necessarily as much, maybe it’s because I’m female? 😉

    • msckat

      That can’t be it. I’m female and have adored Calvin and Hobbes since I was your son’s age.

  6. NWCAdmin

    Thanks for all the awesome comments! Calvin and Hobbes is a great read for kids- silly and visual enough to grab their attention, and sophisticated enough to make them think a little. Way better than most of the junk out there.

  7. p--

    i think it’s wonderful that a full-length movie hasn’t been made. mr. watterson didn’t want his work commercialized, and has held firm to that standard.

  8. Corbmaic

    Love the article, but think I should point out that it’s not technically true to say that Hobbes isn’t alive.

    Waterson said: “I don’t think of Hobbes as a doll that miraculously comes to life when Calvin’s around. Neither do I think of Hobbes as the product of Calvin’s imagination. The nature of Hobbes’ reality really doesn’t interest me, and each story goes out of its way to avoid resolving the issue. Calvin sees Hobbes one way, and everyone else sees Hobbes another way. I show two versions of reality, and each makes complete sense to the participant who sees it. I think that’s how life works. None of us sees the world in exactly the same way”.

    I don’t think this devalues the third reason though, but it might add a fifth good reason to read with children.

  9. Becca

    I love that my almost-6-year old son loves C&H as much as I did! Except when he tries to dump a bucket of water on his mom, order his own pizza for dinner, or pee out his bedroom window. Did I mention my (only child) son actually *looks* like Calvin, too?! But he carries around an orange stuffed turtle…

  10. csigirl2

    Thanks for this! I loved C&H as a kid, one of my faves to read with my dad, and so true!

  11. Mark West

    Fantastic article – I love Calvin & Hobbes too (I’m in my early 40s) and really enjoy reading them with my 8 year old.

  12. James Attahpoku

    “I notice your oeuvre is monochromatic”.
    Tried this as a pick-up line on my wife some 13 years ago and after discovering the source she decided “I’d make a good father!” 🙂 Our sons are now 11 and 7 and years ahead of their age groups in all areas! Calvin and Hobbes should be made a part of life’s curriculum! Add William Gibsons Neuromancer, the Holy book, and the Sandman series from Neil Gaiman and we could get rid of politics altogether and create a new Utopia based on common sense!

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