Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bluffton: My Summers With Buster by Matt Phelan

Bluffton: My Summers With Buster
by Matt Phelan [j 741.5 Phe] 

Having recently read and enjoyed Phelan’s graphic novel re-imagining of Snow White (see recent review), I was curious to see what else the libraries had by this particular author/artist. Bluffton turned out to be quite a treat. This is another graphic novel, done as historical fiction, with a semi-biographical twist. Henry is a young boy growing up in Muskegon, Michigan in the early years of the 20th century, and rather bored with his lot in life. When a troupe of vaudevillians and circus entertainers arrives on the train and encamps in a set of nearby lakeside cabins (a summertime community called Bluffton), Henry finds himself drawn to their exotic nature. Henry befriends one particular boy, young Buster Keaton, the child star of his family’s vaudeville act.

Because the vaudeville houses of the time were not air-conditioned, the vaudevillians took the sultry, hot summers off to vacation, recharge, and practice their acts, before going on the road to perform in the Fall through Spring. So…Henry grows up spending each summer hanging out with the vaudeville crowd and learning about their lifestyle. When some personal conflicts arise, which threaten Henry’s relationship with his seasonal friend Buster, you feel really sorry for all of them.

Phelan’s watercolor art is beautiful and dreamy in quality. He is great at capturing a “likeness” with both simple and broad details, and his images of the young Buster Keaton seem eerily accurate! Although this book is classified as a “juvenile” item, I, as an adult, loved it and recommend it for any readers who miss old-style summers at the lake, small town living, the films of Buster Keaton or the feel and atmosphere of most of the works of Ray Bradbury (many of whose fantastical stories were set in small-town American settings). This book is terrific!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the other books written and illustrated by Matt Phelan, especially Snow White: A Graphic Novel, or The Storm in the Barn.]

 publisher’s official Bluffton web site ] | [ official Matt Phelan web site ]
Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Have you read this one? What did you think? Did you find this review helpful?

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