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 …
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.
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’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.
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.
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.