11 06 2012

With the movie that came out last fall, Tintin has become a popular character here in the U.S., but he’s not new like many people think.   In fact, Tintin’s first appearance, in the comic section of a French newspaper, was in 1929.  That makes Tintin just a year younger than Mickey Mouse, five years older than Donald Duck, and nine years older than Superman and Bugs Bunny.   Just for good measure, that also makes Tintin old enough to be Charlie Brown’s dad (debuted in 1950), and Calvin’s (from Calvin and Hobbes) grandfather (Calving started in 1985).

Actually, the animated movie that everyone reading this should see, is the 6th Tintin story to be released as a movie.  The other ones aren’t very good, and aren’t in English, so I can’t recommend them.

I was first introduced to Tintin almost by mistake.  I run a program called Minooka TAP, a group of teachers that takes 8th grade student on summer trips to foreign countries to study history and culture.  We prepare each group for almost two years before we actually travel, and a lot of that prep work is done by reading all sorts of stories, poems, articles, and websites to get an much information crammed into our brains as we can.  Last year, our group traveled to Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, and Morocco.  We read some books set in each of those countries, but I was having a hard time finding anything set in Morocco.  Finally, I found a book called The Adventures of Tintin: The Crab with the Golden Claws.  Part of that story took its hero, Tintin, through a marketplace in Morocco as part of a wild chase scene.  Since we were going to spend some time in one of those marketplaces (a medina) and the book had some great illustrations of one, I bought it.

That day in Morocco was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, but I felt a little better prepared, because of Tintin.  On top of that, it was a fun, action packed story (with a lot of comedy thrown in).

I’ve been meaning to read more Tintin books (there are 24 all together) ever since, but I finally found some time to this week.

The first one I read, Tintin in America wasn’t great.  It was different from the other Tintin book I read, but I couldn’t quite figure out why.  Then I realized that a lot of supporting characters that I loved were missing.  This was only the third Tintin book, so the author, Herge, hadn’t figured everything out quite yet.  On top of that, all the American characters were kind of stereotypes and a little racist.  There was a Chicago gangster, a tribe of Native Americans, and an evil businessman.  Also, the story felt disconnected, as if a whole bunch of unrelated things kept happening to Tintin and they didn’t fit together.  If you like Tintin a lot, I recommend it, because you can catch glimpses of who the character became, but if you’re not a big fan, just skip the early books.

Next, I read Cigars of the Pharaoh, which I liked a lot more.  It was full of action, and introduced some of the characters like Thomson and Thompson, that became regulars throughout the rest of the series.  You can tell that Herge did a lot of research on the settings (India and Egypt) to make the story as realistic as possible.  This one is a lot of fun.

That story continues into The Blue Lotus, which is set during a time right before WWII, when Japan was trying to take control of China. Tintin finds himself in the middle of some political problems between the Japanese and Chinese.  Some of the bad guys from Cigars of the Pharaoh carry over into this book too.   I really enjoyed most of this book.  It’s only 62 pages, but that’s a little to long for the story.  I enjoyed the first 50 pages and the last 3 pages a lot.  There were about 10 pages there near the end that just didn’t work for me.  Overall, thought, it’s well worth reading.

I’ve already reserved the next three Tintin books at my local library.

These three books put me at 27 books for the summer.  I’m trying to read 90 books in the 90 days of vacation.



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