cover image Bluffton: My Summers with Buster

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster

Matt Phelan. Candlewick, $22.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5079-7

Historical detail, a rich sense of place, expert pacing%E2%80%94Phelan (Around the World) keeps all the plates in the air in this fictionalized recreation of the boyhood summers of Buster Keaton. In lightly sketched, gently tinted watercolor panels, Phelan conveys the excitement a troupe of summering vaudeville actors brings to sleepy Bluffton, a small resort town on Lake Michigan. It's easy to understand the envy the boy narrator Henry feels for his new friend, the child star Keaton, who performs in a comic act in which he's tossed about by his father. Buster's stunts and pratfalls are polished, and his signature deadpan gaze is already perfected. Simultaneously, Phelan hints at darker truths behind Buster's poise: his father's drinking, and the charges of child abuse that dog their act. "Buster's never been hurt in his life!" his red-faced father claims. "Well, not bad, anyway." Over several summers and endless baseball games%E2%80%94Buster's real passion%E2%80%94Henry considers the meaning of his own ordinary life in the light of his friend's celebrity in a way that's believable and satisfying. An unapologetically nostalgic piece of Americana. Ages 9%E2%80%9312. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (July)