At home with the 'Peanuts' gang at the Orlando Regional History Center

As a kid, I was given a hardcover compilation book of "Peanuts," the popular comic strip created by Charles Schulz. I read and reread those panels, which could be digested in small doses or feasted on, cover to cover.

That "Peanuts Treasury" book was passed along to my sister, who also cherished it and appreciated Schulz's relatable takes on childhood. (We still laugh, decades later, about Linus saying he was "aware of my tongue.") Since then, I purchased a fresh reprinting of "Treasury," but the old coffee-mug-stained book with loose pages lives on.

Although I have a personal "Peanuts" history, I wasn't sure how the exhibit called "Peanuts … Naturally," showcasing Schulz's devotion to the world around him, would fit in at the Orange County Regional History Center.

Of course, purely by longevity, the work qualifies for historical consideration. Schulz wrote the comic from 1950 to early 2000. I had forgotten that he had announced his retirement in late 1999, only to die on Feb. 12, 2000 — the day before his final original work was published.

"Peanuts" repeats have appeared in newspapers, including the Orlando Sentinel, since then.

The exhibit features more than 100 Schulz strips, including some oversized reproductions. The setup is straightforward. The "Peanuts" panels are grouped by themes. In a stretch devoted to the elements, Schulz covers rain, wind, snow and other weather conditions. Supplemental reading tries to tie it all together more scientifically.

In one strip, Snoopy watches little bird pal Woodstock dance. In the third panel, a black cloud forms and droplets fall. Punch line: You were right … You can dance up a storm," Snoopy says.

I laughed. I'd totally buy this on a T-shirt. But is this history?

"Rain dances were performed by people of many cultures from ancient times until today. They are almost always done in agricultural regions to bring rain to promote the growth of food crops," says the accompanying text.

That feels more science center than history center to me. But Schulz did have education in mind. He repeatedly used Lucy, who I think of just being extremely bossy, in a Little-Miss-Know-It-All (but grossly uninformed) role. In one strip, she insists that there are 365 stars in the sky — one for each day of the day. Charlie Brown just can't stand it.

An eclipse is explained with Linus quoting his ophthalmologist. (Linus wore glasses for less than a year, the exhibit states, because Schulz tired of drawing them.)

I like the back corner of the second-floor gallery, which features several strips with Snoopy trying to determine what kind of bird Woodstock is. Snoopy's birdcalls include "Chup chup chup zeeeeeee," "tea-kettle, tea-kettle, tea-kettle tea" and the ever-popular "oong-ka-choonk-oong-ka-choonk-oong-ka-choonk, etc." The signage says many folks think Woodstock resembles a cardinal. (Hmmmm, a yellow cardinal?) Near this display are squeeze toys that make bird noises.

There are Earth-friendly kid activities with a focus on recycling and an art station to teach children how to draw Lucy and Snoopy.

Charlie Brown's nemesis, the kite-eating tree, is featured prominently and it's decorated with birdhouses created by the history center's summer campers. It stands near strips where Charlie thinks the Environmental Protection Agency is coming after him after he bites the tree in frustration.

History? Science? Science fiction?

dbevil@tribune.com or 407-420-5477

'Peanuts … Naturally'

Where: Orange County Regional History Center, 65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando

When: Exhibit runs through Dec. 31. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. on Sundays.

Cost: Admission is $9 general, $6 ages 5-12.

Phone: 407-836-8500

Online: thehistorycenter.org

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