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Monday, November 4, 2013

Buster Keaton in BLUFFTON

Matt Phelan's artwork first captivated me in Betty Birney's The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs. I loved the bear in Alice Schertle's Very Hairy Bear and the panels in his own graphic novel  Around the World. His latest book, set in 1908, features the same style as the latter title: soft watercolor panels with speech bubbles and occasional narration in textboxes.

I think I expected Bluffton to be more about vaudeville and The Three Keatons, in which case I probably would not have enjoyed it so much. Instead, it was the story of three summers of Buster's teenage years as told through the eyes of Henry Harrison, a fictional boy who lived in Muskegon, Michigan, and who visited Bluffton and the Actors' Colony. Henry's fascination with the members of the colony draws him there each day (when his own father does not need his help at their store). The young people engage in games of baseball, skip stones, and participate in Buster's ingenious practical jokes and schemes. Though Henry begs Buster to teach him how to fall, how to land, how to avoid getting hurt, the young Keaton clearly just wants to be seen as a person aside from the acts. The author's note tells more of Buster's story and encourages readers to view the man's movies. 

The story of how the author acquired the photograph at the end of the book is fascinating:

Now I need to watch Phelan's recommendation: The General, starring Buster Keaton (

1 comment:

  1. Phelan is one of my favorite illustrators, encountered his art in The Seven Wonders....Where I Live by Spinelli is also a favorite book...Looks like you've got me going looking again...