I don't know how old I was when I first read Peanuts. I'm pretty sure it was sometime back in fourth grade, maybe even third, when I started my relationship with these books.
And for me, Peanuts was always about books. I'm sure that for years I was not even aware it was a daily comic strip, probably didn't even know what that meant—but I knew the books. "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was on TV for the first time two years before I was born and had become a seasonal staple by the time I was in fourth grade, but I don't remember seeing it when I was a kid, or seeing any of the other Peanuts TV specials that had been produced by the time I was in fourth grade—but I knew the books.
I've been collecting them, the books, for more than forty-five years. I don't actually have that many—forty-two: I just turned around and counted them—but they are precious to me.
Not everyone cared for Peanuts as much as I do, of course. Al Capp, creator of the "Li'l Abner" comic strip and a generation older than Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, once famously characterized the kids in Peanuts as "...mean little b*stards. Eager to hurt each other." Maybe Capp had a point, but he didn't seem to appreciate the fact that this made them all the more real as kids and as human beings, and that it made the moments of truth and beauty they revealed, either by transcending the inherent melancholy of life or by accepting it, all the more beautiful.
"Life is rarely one way, Charlie Brown," Linus says to his friend as the two lean against the brick wall where they do all their philosophizing, "You win a few, and you lose a few."
"Really?" says Charlie Brown, who—at least in his own perception—has never won a thing in his life, and—again, at least in his own perception—probably never will. "Gee," he says in the last panel, his mouth in the beginnings of a hopeful smile, "that'd be neat!!"
That hopeful smile makes Peanuts wonderful.