Street Gang: The Complete History Of Sesame Street

Street Gang: The Complete History Of Sesame Street - Michael Davis,  Read by Caroll Spinney How can you resist a book with Oscar the Grouch on the cover? My children loved Sesame Street and on occasion, in a pinch – don’t cringe at the thought – it was indeed an electronic babysitter. Having been fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom while my children were preschoolers I like to think I had a big impact on their early education, however, I must give Sesame Street its due in helping them start kindergarten knowing more than the basics.
Mr. Davis does a superb job of giving us the history not only behind the creation of Sesame Street but also of the iconic shows (Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo) that were to precursors to this longest running children’s show on television. The little pieces of history and trivia about the actors were priceless tidbits.
Starting out as dinner table conversation the concept of educational children’s programming fell firmly into the hands of Joan Ganz Cooney. She did the research and initiated the funding. The first two thirds of the book deals with these topics, so for die-hard Sesame Street fans it may seem a little tedious, but keep reading, the importance becomes apparent.
Mr. Davis clearly explains how this show was ground breaking on so many levels – it incorporated multiculturalism, dealt with age and gender issues, it did not shy aware from real life issues such as birth, death, marriage, love and loss, pain and pleasure.
Of course the chapters dealing directly with the creative side of the program were not only interesting but fun. The history of puppetteering and the meeting of minds between Jim Henson and Frank Oz are fascinating.
Interestingly enough Mr. Davis does not gloss over the less attractive aspects of the show and its production including, the progression of the show to its current form, the behind the scenes tensions, actors coming and going and being human, and the sale to Disney Corporation.
The book draws to a close with a beautiful recollection and tribute to Mr. Henson’s memorial service.
Having read some other reviews of the book, readers are saying there were many things left out. I say how can you possibly include everything? In my opinion this a wonderful tribute to a piece of programming history and all the people involved in making it happen. I listened to the audio version narrated brilliantly by Caroll Spinney (the long time voices of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch).