Jim Henson: The Biography

Jim Henson: The Biography - Brian Jay Jones My children grew up watching Sesame Street, The Muppet Show and Fraggle Rock. Call the parent police if you must, but occasionally those shows were wonderful “babysitters” allowing me to get chores done and meals prepared. We once took my daughters to a presentation of a behind the scenes look at Fraggle Rock, where my eldest was kissed by a Fraggle – I think it was the highlight of her life up to that point. The chart toppers of the 1980’s are a blur to me (I call them my mommy years) by I can still hum the opening theme to Sesame Street and The Muppet show. To this day if we are confronted with an odd assortment of items one, two of all three of us will break out into “One of These Things is Not Like the Other”. For all that I owe Mr. Henson a debt of gratitude.

* Nothing to do with this book but honorable mention must go The Elephant Show and Skinnamarink as far as memorable, hummable theme songs from children’s shows go.

Having read an excellent book a while back called “Street Gang” by Michael Davis describing the beginnings and the theories behind children’s educational programming but only scraping the surface of Mr. Henson’s life, when I came across this title I knew I had to read it. This book does more than scrape the surface. Mr. Jones’ research is diligent. He gives us a glimpse into both Mr. Henson’s heritage and his life starting with his great-grandparents right through to his untimely death. Mr. Jones describes Mr. Henson’s life, his genius, his compulsions and his family life and he does so admirably yet without sugar coating anything. He shares Mr. Henson’s flaws, foibles and faults along with everything else and that is what made this book such an exceptionally good biography. I find biographies are usually either “tell-alls” or works of gushing admiration. This one is an enjoyable journey through Mr. Henson’s life and career. I even learned a few things I didn’t know along the way.

By the end of this book I liked Jim Henson. When it came time to read about his death and funeral it was written with so much respect and poignancy that I am not ashamed to say I had to reach for the tissue box several times.

If you can still hum the theme song to Sesame Street, ever owned a Kermit puppet, know who Fozzie Bear is, remember the “hand scene” from The Labyrinth or enjoyed The Dark Crystal – you HAVE TO read this book.