If I were to make a list of the most important and cherished bits of my childhood from my current perspective as an adult Calvin and Hobbes would be very close to the top of that list. I also believe that if I were to form such a list from my perspective as a child it would also be near the top of that list. I still own all of the original Calvin and Hobbes books, many of which I bought myself with whatever money I received as gifts or allowance. I spent countless hours reading and re-reading them and they are dog-eared with love.
Thanks to Adrienne, who had an extra copy, I now also own the beautiful hardcover edition of "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes" which gathers all of the strips and bonus material ever produced by the masterful Bill Watterson into a three-volume collection with the glorious Sunday strips printed in full colour. It is truly a monument to his creation (quite literally as it weighs 23.7 pounds).
I have not re-read any Calvin and Hobbes in many years, so it was an absolute joy to read them all start-to-finish in large format with full colour. Also, with years of additional life perspective many of the strips and the overall tone of the work take on new meaning. The art in the comic is frequently gorgeous, but the text is the true strength. Many strips are dense with words. The vocabulary is extensive and the social commentary subtle. I like to think that although I did not understand everything in Calvin and Hobbes as a child it still shaped my world view and provided me with a point of reference upon encountering new situations as I moved through the end of childhood and the first stages of being an adult.
Even now, the themes continue to be valuable. Presence in the moment; appreciation of nature; the value of friendship; finding fun in all that is around you; and most importantly imagination. These topics never become insignificant.
Like Neil Gaiman's The Sandman Calvin and Hobbes is not "just a comic." It is art. For parents of young children I cannot recommend Calvin and Hobbes strongly enough as a way to entertain them while encouraging them to think differently about the world around us.
If you've never read Calvin and Hobbes, the best way to experience it is to get a physical copy of one of the many collections and just read it. Preferably someplace quiet and alone, without the distractions of life. For anyone looking for more perspective on the work and its famously private and principled creator Bill Watterson, check out the excellent documentary Dear Mr. Watterson.