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Teaching With Calvin and Hobbes

"Class Discussion: Pretend you are Calvin in this story. Tell what you would do."

-p. 125, "The Bug Collection", Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes

This is Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes by Linda Holmen and Mary Santella-Johnson. It is a children's language textbook that was developed and written by a speech pathologist and a learning disabilities educator. In the book, Calvin and Hobbes comic strips are utilized in a classic Dick and Jane style to teach vocabulary, comprehension, critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and the form and function of humor.

"In strip 7(d), what is Hobbes insinuating?"

-p. 76, "The Christmas Story", Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes

Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, never allowed his publisher and distributor, Universal Press Syndicate, to license any official Calvin and Hobbes products. However, because of its great educational value, an official license for Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes was granted by Universal Press Syndicate to a children's book publisher in Fargo, North Dakota, with the special permission of Bill Watterson.

"In 'The Report', Calvin and Susie call each other several names that imply the other is not very smart. Fill in those phrases below."

-p. 141, "The Report", Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes

The license limited Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes to only one print run of only 2,500 copies in 1993. The license further restricted the publisher to advertise the book only to schoolteachers and other education professionals. The entire print run has been sold by the publisher. The license has been fulfilled; no more copies will ever be printed.

"What do you think the principal meant when he said they had 'quite a file' on Calvin?"

-p. 108, "The Bug Collection", Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes

Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes contains five units. Each unit begins with a famous series of Calvin and Hobbes comic strips that tell a story, and then continues with language and analysis exercises about the story. The units include: "The Binoculars", "The Find", "The Christmas Story", "The Bug Collection", and "The Report". Please read the following excerpts to experience the charm of this rare and remarkable book.

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This book is dedicated to:

Bill Watterson, for his sheer genius and insight into childhood.

Thanks to Mary Suggett, Permissions Director at Universal Press Syndicate, for her cooperation.

All Rights Reserved Calvin and Hobbes, Universal Press Syndicate.

Copyright 1993 Playground Publishing, Fargo, North Dakota.

How It All Began...

Dear Mr. Watterson,

We have found your Calvin and Hobbes books to be extremely helpful in working with children who have learning, language, or reading disabilities. We are special educators in Tioga, North Dakota, and we are very aware of how your work speaks for all children as well as for those who have trouble articulating their experience in the world around them.

Several of the children we see have attention deficits or social difficulties. One boy said, "Calvin makes me see that I can laugh at the stuff that other people always nag me about!"

We have incorporated Calvin and Hobbes into our programs to help our students understand concepts like humor, puns, implied meaning, figurative language, sarcasm, facial expression; all the subtle language concepts that "make it or break it" for these children. So many of these kids use Calvin as a point of reference.

Because we have found teaching with Calvin and Hobbes to be so successful, we would like to write and publish a book on the programs we have developed, using comic strips from your books. We need to know if you would give us permission to use your material to include in our book. We are so impressed with the benefits of using Calvin and Hobbes that we would like to pass on the word to other educators.

Thank you for your consideration and for providing some great teaching resources.


Mary Santella-Johnson and Linda Holmen

Unit 1: "The Binoculars"


A. I'll crack

B. coronary

C. nail me

D. flay me

E. out of his mind

F. looking at the big scheme of things

G. stew in my own guilt

H. blow every capillary in his body


1. Calvin told Hobbes that he dropped the binoculars. Why was that an understatement?

2. Why wouldn't Calvin's idea to glue the binoculars work?

3. When Hobbes suggests that Calvin tell his mother, he disagrees. What phrase implies he's been in trouble with his mom before?

4. Why was Calvin's dad beginning to think that breaking the binoculars wasn't so bad after all?

Problem Solving

1. Sometimes we try to blame others when, actually, the person doing the blaming is responsible. For instance, when Calvin believes that there is no way out of his problem situation, who does he blame?

2. Calvin tries some interesting problem solving. What are some of Calvin's possible solutions?

3. One by one, Calvin eliminates his solutions until he is left with one. Which solution does he choose?

4. How does his dad react when Calvin tells him the truth?

About the Authors

Mary Santella-Johnson is a speech and language pathologist in Tioga, North Dakota. She holds a B.S. degree in special education from the University of Northern Colorado and a M.S. degree in communicative disorders from the University of Wisconsin.

Linda Holmen has been teaching for over thirteen years in the Tioga Elementary Schools. She holds a B.S. degree in elementary education from Minot State University and a M.S. degree in learning disabilities from the University of North Dakota.

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The book is softcover, has 188 pages, and measures 8-1/2 by 11 inches (21 by 28 cm).

"By now, you have read several stories of Calvin and Hobbes. Let's try to make some predictions about the next story before you read it. Work in small groups, individually, or as a class."

-p. 134, "The Report", Teaching with Calvin and Hobbes

Text Copyright 2004 by Radigan Neuhalfen

Excerpts Copyright 1993 by Playground Publishing