BLUFFTON by Matt Phelan
Kirkus Star

BLUFFTON

My Summers with Buster
by , illustrated by
Age Range: 9 - 12

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this winsome, sparely spun graphic novel by Phelan (The Storm in the Barn, 2011), Henry Harrison gets a tantalizing taste of the outside world when a young Buster Keaton and more vacationing vaudevillians tumble into his small Michigan town.

The scene opens on a tranquil Muskegon street, with a glimpse of the suspender-sporting Henry sweeping up his dad’s hardware store. Strolling men in bowler hats, long-skirted women and a June 1908 calendar offer the initial whiff of an era long gone. Nothing like an elephant to shake things up! When the show people come to town one summer, nearby Bluffton springs to life, as does Henry’s yearslong infatuation with Buster Keaton, who, wincingly, was then best known as the tossed-around but indestructible “Human Mop.” Frame by frame, in pencil and watercolor, the artist captures the joys of lakeside summers of fishing, baseball and harmless pranks, all the while skillfully communicating the emotional intensity of youth. Despite the painful sense of longing the worldly Buster stirs up in Henry, a 1927 epilogue of sorts assures readers that Henry finds his own path in life…and his own special brand of show biz. An author’s note explains that the Actors’ Colony at Bluffton really did exist, from 1908 to 1938.

Thrilling—a spirited, poignant coming-of-age vignette and an intriguing window into a little-known chapter in vaudeville history. (art not seen in full color) (author’s note) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5079-7
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Candlewick
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2013




BEST MIDDLE-GRADE BOOKS OF 2013 TO MAKE HISTORY COME ALIVE:

Children EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION by Tonya Bolden
by Tonya Bolden
Children THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL by Don Brown
by Don Brown
Children WITH A MIGHTY HAND by Amy Ehrlich
by Amy Ehrlich
Children BECOMING BEN FRANKLIN by Russell Freedman
by Russell Freedman

MORE BY MATT PHELAN

ChildrenXANDER'S PANDA PARTY by Linda Sue Park
by Linda Sue Park
ChildrenAROUND THE WORLD by Matt Phelan
by Matt Phelan
ChildrenI'LL BE THERE by Ann Stott
by Ann Stott

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionMISSOURI BOY by Leland Myrick
by Leland Myrick
ChildrenTHE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET by Brian Selznick
by Brian Selznick
ChildrenTHE STORM IN THE BARN by Matt Phelan
by Matt Phelan