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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Charlie Brown 'Cyclopedia

When I was a child, I hated doing homework.
This isn’t much of a surprising admission, though.  I reckon that if you asked any random kid currently in school, most of them would have the same opinion as I.

Let’s face it.  Homework assignments were a drag.  It was as if you just sat through seven and a half hours of lesson plans, projects, and lectures, and yet the teacher expected you to do more on top of that.  It just wasn’t fair.
Doing homework took away time from watching television shows.  Doing homework prevented you from hanging out at the shopping mall, sipping on a root beer while window shopping.  Doing homework prevented you from having any sort of fun whatsoever! 

But, here’s a little mini confession for each of you reading this.  Despite my dislike of homework, I very rarely had any to bring home.  At least that was the case during elementary school.
I was one of those kids who would blow through assignments meant for homework really quickly.  I did my assignments so quickly that more often than not, I was finishing up the last question as the dismissal bell for the bus students sounded.

Ah, but before you accuse me of bragging, consider this.  Just because I had the assignments completed didn’t necessarily mean that I had done them correctly.  And, yes, in some cases, that ended up exactly what happened.  But, that was how much I hated homework.  I was so determined to finish it before the day was done that I didn’t care if the answers were right or wrong.  In most cases, I got through it just fine, but I did have my moments of epic failure.
That was during elementary school though.  The minute I entered high school was the minute that my homework load tripled.  Suddenly, I had homework in every single class that had to be done before the end of the week.  If I failed to complete one assignment, my grades would plummet.

So, out came the set of encyclopedias and checking out library books (because when I started high school, our technology was limited to Windows 95), and my free time was spent researching dozens of sources to put together the perfect essay, book report, or independent study.
I still remember one project that I had to do when I was in school.  If I remember correctly, it was a project that I had to do on holiday celebrations all over the world.  There was just one problem.  I had very limited resources to use for the project at the time.  By the time I had gotten to my school library, all the decent reference books had already been checked out.  I also couldn’t go and use the photo copier to copy articles from library exclusive periodicals because the copier was out of order at the time.

Just my luck, huh?
And, a trip to the town public library also turned up empty, as most of the books that were present were out of date, and had contradictory information.  And being that this was during a time in which the Internet wasn’t as huge as it is now, I was left without many options.

That was until I remembered that I had a set of books from my childhood that I could use for my project.  I knew that by citing the book as a reference for a high school project was a bit of a risk, given that the book was presented by a bunch of comic strip characters, but by this time, I was desperate for sources to footnote, and desperate times called for desperate measures.
So, I searched through my collection of childhood books and found the book that I needed.

Above is the picture of the book that I used for the project.  It was the eleventh book of the fifteen volume Charlie Brown’s ‘Cyclopedia series.  The above picture comes from the 1990 edition.  This particular volume dealt with holiday celebrations all over the world, which was what my project was based on.  The book detailed how celebrations began, when they were celebrated all over the world, and some of the customs that were associated with the holidays. 
Oh, I guess I should mention that the book was written in a style that was suitable for grade school children and that many of the facts were presented through illustrations created by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.  Hardly the most conventional research tool for a tenth grade student to be using.

But, when one was having trouble finding sources to use for a project that was due in less than 48 hours, one has to take the steps to succeed.  And, like it or not, Charlie Brown and Snoopy were the only ones who could help me type up a decent project.

So, using the information presented in that Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia, it allowed me to fill up some of the holes that I had in my project, and before long, I had a completed paper, suitable for grading.
One thing that I noticed though while I was flipping through the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia set (and yes, I did own the entire 1990 set) of books were how informative they were.  I mean, yes, they were written for children.  However, if one sifted through the Peanuts references and the simplistic way in which the information was presented, they may find that the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia was chock full of relevant information that might have helped thousands of children with their own homework assignments.

Mind you, those books were published over twenty years ago.  I imagine that depending on the subject, some of that information is grossly outdated by now.  But, at least I had the newer version of the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia set. 

The original version of the series was published way back in 1980, and were based off of the popular Charlie Brown Super Book Of Questions and Answers series of books.  The order of the subjects of each volume swapped around between the 1980 version and the 1990 version, but the subjects remained the same in both versions.

Here is a photo of the original 1980 version of the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia down below.

And, each volume focused on a specific subject.  Here’s the list of the subjects talked about in each of the 15 volumes, according to the 1980 version.
1 – Featuring Your Body
2 – Featuring All Kinds Of Animals From Fish To Frogs
3 – Featuring All Kinds Of Animals From Dinosaurs To Elephants
4 – Featuring Cars And Trains And Other Things That Move
5 – Featuring Boats And Other Things That Float
6 – Featuring Planes And Other Things That Fly
7 – Featuring Space Travel
8 – Featuring Stars And Planets
9 – Featuring The Earth, Weather And Climate
10 – Featuring People Around The World
11 – Featuring What We Wear
12 – Featuring Holidays
13 – Featuring Machines And How They Work
14 – Featuring Sound, Light And Air
15 – Featuring Electricity And Magnetism
Again, as stated, the 1980 version and 1990 version were a bit different.  The book that I used for my project was the edition on holidays and celebrations, which in the 1980 version was book number 12.  But in the version I owned, it was book number 11.  For the most part though, that was the only difference.  In both the 1980 version and 1990 version, the format for how the information was displayed was exactly the same.

For most of the book, the information was presented in Question/Answer format.  A question would be asked, such as “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why is blood red?”.  In each case, the answer would be featured directly underneath the question asked, and it would often be an answer that was brief and to the point, yet still provided enough information to adequately answer the question properly.  The entire book was like this from start to finish.
Occasionally, you would see coloured boxes on certain pages that had exclamation points inside of them.  These were bonus trivia sections that were included in the book, usually as a supplement to a question that was already asked in the book.  It could be a translation of a word, a random fact about a flower, or even a world record or two.

And, of course, there would be comic strips and drawings of the Peanuts gang included all throughout the book.  Many of the drawings were actual comic strips that appeared in newspapers and Peanuts collections.  By including the Peanuts gang in the information, it made the book a lot more fun to read, and I certainly remember being more eager to learn from the book when the Peanuts characters were involved than just leafing through a standard encyclopedia.

That’s about all that I have to say about the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia.  They were books that kept me informed about various subjects, and probably helped me through school more times than I could probably count on.
Oh, yeah.  One more thing.  You know that high school project that I used the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia on?

I got an A+.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a kid, we only had the volume called "featuring your body", now it's 2012 and my 6 year old son enjoys the book. I love all things Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang!