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Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton
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Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  2,152 ratings  ·  297 reviews
Matt Phelan, graphic novelist extraordinaire, presents a rollicking tribute to vaudeville, small-town dreams, and Buster Keaton as a boy.

In the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, a visiting troupe of vaudeville performers is about the most exciting thing since baseball. They’re summering in nearby Bluffton, so Henry has a few months to ogle the elephant and the zebra,
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published July 23rd 2013 by Candlewick Press

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Community Reviews

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So one of my friends, whose name I will not mention here but who I love dearly, does this thing on Goodreads that drives me insane.

Because she is a much kinder person than I am, apparently, she won’t give negative reviews.

A book she hates will, at worst, rank three stars and an offhand comment like, “I thought the illustrations in this book were lovely,” which to her actually means, “I have nothing good to say about the plot or text of this book and thus must focus only on the admittedly sub-p
David Schaafsma
I love this lovely watercolor trip back to Muskegon, Michigan, about an hour and a half from where I grew up in Grand Rapids. Holland and Grand Haven were the places I went to get to Lake Michigan from GR, and my parents had a summer home north of Muskegon in Ludington, but I rarely went there, so I wasn't familiar with Bluffton as an area of that town, nor did I know that in 1908 Buster Keaton, his family and a troupe of vaudevillians summered there. This historical fiction for tweens or YA may ...more
Nicola Mansfield
I keep reading Phelan's books because they *sound* interesting and I like his art but have found the others just OK and didn't really expect to be reading him anymore, however the historical theme grabbed my attention once again and the Buster Keaton story pulled me right in this time. I love reading about the era of the silent movies and ended up really enjoying this book. The book is actually about Keaton's childhood in vaudeville before he became a movie star and is related through the eyes o ...more
Matt Phelan has been one of my favorites authors and graphic novelist since reading the graphic novel about life during the Dust Bowl, "The Storm in the Barn" and the delightful picture book entitled "Flora's Very Windy Day."
I wasn't expecting to read "Bluffton" today, but I am so glad that I did. I cried at the end, and that is without even knowing anything about Buster Keaton or his life. The story follows a young Buster during three of his summers in Muskegon, Michigan. The narrator of the s
Cindy Dobrez
I did not know that Buster Keaton vacationed in my neighboring town as a kid. Check out the full review of the book with photos of Bookends' trip to Bluffton to walk in Keaton's footsteps. Phelan's graphic novel is the perfect vehicle for this story of summers on the Lake Michigan shoreline in the early 1900s.
Not a lot seems to happen in Henry's Muskegon, Michigan, hometown. But the summer of 1908 is different. Once a troupe of vaudeville performers arrive to vacation for the summer in Bluffton, a nearby neighborhood, Henry spends every free moment getting to know the animals and hanging out with the boys, one of whom is Buster Keaton, known for his "ability to take a fall better than anyone alive (p. 35) with a deadpan expression, his pranks, and his engineering feats. While Henry longs to learn som ...more
Wayne McCoy
Bluffton is the story of Henry, a young boy, growing up near Bluffton, Minnesota during the early years of the 20th Century. Every year a group of Vaudeville performers would spend the summer there. Henry befriends the children of the performers, including a young Buster Keaton.

Buster's father, Joe, is hounded for including his children in his act, and it's a constant sore point. Buster is a quiet, reflective child who just wants to play baseball. Henry is enamored with the showbiz life and year
I confess that as I proud Michigander I'm a little more than just excited about this book because it does such a lovely job of evoking the joy and seemingly endless days of sun and fun that summers on Lake Michigan and environs can be like as a child. The historical factoids and atmosphere just enhance story. The artwork is gorgeous, and highly detailed. I am not always a fan of completely wordless books, but this book does a wonderful job of using the wordless sections to express passage of tim ...more
Penny Peck
Phelan's graphic novels are uniquely suited to use in classrooms, because his subject matter is often historical fiction, but they are also wonderful recreational reading. His newest, BLUFFTON, is set in the early 1900's, in Michigan, where vaudevillians spend their summer vacation. One of the actors is ten-year-old Buster Keaton, who the narrator (a local boy) befriends. It won't matter that most tweens won't know who Keaton was; the book is more about the narrator's yearning for something outs ...more
Kinda boring... Which is hard to pill off in the graphic novel format!
The narrator of this graphic novel recounts a couple of summers in Muskegon, Michigan where he befriended Buster Keaton who was one of several vaudeville performers who summered at the Actors' Colony at Bluffton. Although the story is a work of fiction, I discovered that this Actors' Colony - founded by Buster's dad, Joe - existed and that the Keatons spent many summers there. It was an interesting look at a little-known (at least to me) part of Michigan history and Keaton's childhood. It also m ...more
Teresa Scherping
Henry is in awe when he sees a group of vaudeville performers, including an elephant and a zebra, pass through his town of Muskegon, Michigan one summer. The year is 1908 and the performers are staying in nearby Bluffton as a vacation from the exciting vaudeville circuit. Henry becomes friends with some of the kids in the group, including the famous comic actor Buster Keaton. Henry wishes he could have a wild and interesting life like Buster, instead of going to school and helping in his father' ...more
Wandering Librarians
It's 1908, and not much happens in Muskegon, Michigan. But all that changes when a troupe of vaudeville performers come to summer not far from Muskegon. Henry can't believe his eyes. The elephants, zebras, and the kids who travel with their families! What a life! Henry befriends Buster, a kid his age who is part of his family's act. Henry wants Buster to teach him all his tricks, but all Buster wants is to play baseball and pull some pranks.

Henry is a fictional character, but all the vaudeville
Valerie Barnhart
1) This historical text takes us back to 1908 and entertainment of the community through the traveling vaudeville acts and performers who performed for the public entertainment. The plot is easy to follow. The flashbacks or memory panels are done in black and white while the current panels are in color. The illustrations are easy to follow. The focus is the questionable lifestyle of the parents of a young boy who grows up in the traveling vaudeville show. The point of humor in the act is questio ...more
Bluffton by Matt Phelan was a phenomenal graphic novel. It is about henry, who is a normal boy who lives a normal life in Muskegon, Michigan, with his mom and dad, who run a hardware store. In the summer of 1908, the vaudevillians come to Muskegon to have a nice vacation. Over the summer, Henry becomes friends with Buster and Lex. They go to Lake Michigan Park to play baseball, swim, and go fishing. Lately, the Gerry Society has been trying to stop the act in which Buster and his parents are a ...more
Karen A.
I admire Matt Phelan's gentle watercolor illustrations. I wasn't sure if they would pull me into the story however his light touch nicely sets the tone of nostalgia and history and also lingers with the reader as if they are their own memories.

Told from the point of view of a young Henry whose perfect Midwestern summer is suddenly interrupted by the arrival of a troupe of vaudeville entertainers including elephants, zebras, and tightrope walkers. However none of these are as exotic or as engagin
I was not impressed with this book. Stipulated, I read it in two sections, separated by a very large nonfiction book. Nonetheless, I found this dragged. There were just too many panels with people looking at each other significantly, usually mad but not always. Fewer significant looks and more action would have helped. I can't help but think that Buster Keaton would have broken up some of the places it dragged with action. Why Keaton? Because that is who the book is really about, the actor and m ...more
Carol Royce Owen
I asked a new friend today what she knew about graphic novels. I confessed that it was one genre I had yet to break into, having only read one or two, and not catching the fever. She steered me to Matt Phelan's book Bluffton, with a recommendation that "you can't go wrong with Matt Phelan." So, I decided to give it a go. And I'm not disappointed. The setting for the story is the early 1900s in Bluffton, Michigan. Usually a quiet town, that's about to change when vaudeville performers come to tow ...more
In the graphic novel Bluffton by Matt Phelan, we follow the life of a young fictional character named Henry throughout his adolescent summers in Bluffton, Michigan. Henry’s life was pretty ordinary until the day the Vaudeville Entertainers arrived in 1908. Henry quickly became friends with Buster Keaton one of the younger entertainers. Henry and Buster made many wonderful memories together during their summers in Bluffton when the Vaudevillians would return. Their friendship had its ups and dow ...more
Tracy Sherman
When you picture the past what does it look like? Is it a full-color panoramic photograph, a sepia print, is it a dusty old oil painting, a vague pencil sketch or a smudged charcoaled rendering?
In the graphic novel, Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton, the past for author Matt Phelan is his beautifully painted watercolors. They capture the time, a little after the turn-of-the 20th Century, where a 13 year old boy is about to spend another boring summer... until he meets another boy his age w
This is a gentle story, nicely illustrated, about a boy and his friendship with Buster Keaton. Beginning in the early 1900s, Henry lives in a small town near Bluffton. Every summer vaudeville performers start coming to stay at a cabin near Bluffton. Amongst them is the Keaton family, which includes their teenage son Buster. Henry, a teenager himself, who helps out in his Dad's shop, quickly becomes friends with Buster, and the story covers 3 summers that Buster comes to stay in the town. Henry b ...more
I really enjoy Matt Phelan's books. I think they are wonderful slices of life. I appreciate the minimal text and lovely illustrations. Bluffton is the story of Henry and his summers spent with Buster Keaton. It seems Keaton and other vaudeville acts summer at Bluffton and fictional Henry was able to get to know them a bit. Henry wasn't happy working in his dad's store and really wanted to do more with his life. Unfortunately, Buster never shows him any tricks and just wants to hang out and play ...more
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Extreme Buster Keaton Fans
I am not giving this book two stars because it is bad. But I don't like books in which the goal is to educate someone about a real-life person. Buster Keaton is a real-life person. This book is like a graphic novel historical fiction of Buster Keaton. Ick.

If I want to read a biography on Buster Keaton, I'll do that. Inventing a fictional character and making Buster Keaton his best summer friend just annoys me.

The artwork is nothing to write home about.

In the summer of 1908, Henry was eager to meet the Three Keaton. Buster, one of the kids who fell near Henry in the bushes on sand, was one of them. Buster and his family past down there acts from generation to generation. What Buster did for a living is incredible, but he never been at school except once. And what he did for a living was painful, but very funny. he was a catastrophe and he was a professional.Henry and Buster became very good friends, but it broke apart and they didn't talk to
beautifully illustrated and perfectly charming. Absolutely loved it and now I'm reserving a Buster Keaton movie!
I had started then stopped this book. Why? It simply didn't hold my interest and the illustrations were, at best, bland. So I decided to go back and read it with an open mind. This is about a young boy who grows up and one of his companions is Buster Keaton. Buster Keaton was a real person, with a facinating horrible life. This book however simply touches on the fact that he came to a town and was the companion of the young man. They are not friends. The young man is jealous of him, they played ...more
Julie Cotton
This charming graphic novel is both beautiful and touching. Its quiet watercolor pictures transported me to boyhood summers filled with the simple things of 1910. It does not rush, so I would recommend its reader not either. Enjoy it, like sipping an iced tea on a hot afternoon looking out over the lake.
3.5 stars (rounded up for illustrations and subject)

I loved the illustrations (soft water colors, excellent use of color), and thought the subject (Buster Keaton & traveling vaudeville shows) was interesting. But I had a hard time with Henry. He was a huge, um, jerkface to Buster when he was sitting with Sally on the porch, then never apologized to either of them. And he still "got the girl" in the end! I just wanted a little more comeuppance for him (esp. since he was a fictional character
Laura Jimenez
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bluffton is a graphic novel that really brings the feeling of summer. Reading a great book that reminds me of my own childhood was really great to me.
This book is about a boy named Henry who meets a boy from the circus. Henry had never been to a circus before and became best friends with the circus boy. They play baseball every day of the summer until winter comes. But as soon as summer starts back up, they're outside playing again. i wont spoil what happens, but Henry really wants to be in the
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Matt Phelan made his illustrating debut with Betty G. Birney’s The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster). Since then he has illustrated many picture books and novels for young readers, including Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli (Dial), Very Hairy Bear by Alice Schertle (Harcourt), and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Simon & Schuster) winner of the 2007 Ne ...more
More about Matt Phelan...
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“Buster never cracks a smile. Ever. No matter what. That’s what really makes it funny.” 0 likes
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