Nonfiction — Jim Henson

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

5 out of 5 stars!

From the Goodreads Synopsis

An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture—and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.

The Muppets have been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember.  Sesame Street was one of the few shows I was allowed to watch at a very young age, later on The Muppet Show would become a staple in our household.  One of my favorite Christmas specials is a lesser-known earlier creation called Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas.  And the movies…well, you get the idea.  I remember when I heard about Jim Henson’s sudden death and wondered what would become of all his amazing creations.  But over the years I began to wonder:  who was Jim Henson?

Brian Jay Jones dives into the details from the very beginning, starting with a rather extensive look at Jim’s family, then going into his childhood and teen years.  Jim’s fascination with puppetry and his creative mind would launch an early career making commercials for everything from coffee to dog food (some of these have recently surfaced on youtube, it’s worth checking them out).  Than along came an opportunity called Sesame Street and the rest, as they say, is history.

Thanks to the hundreds of hours worth of family interviews and Jim’s own journals, Jones shows us the private side of Jim, the quiet, unassuming workaholic with a passion for life and a fierce loyalty to his family and friends.  There’s no drug-fueled debauchery or Mommie Dearest-type abuse.  Rather, Jim’s story is one of a creative genius who just wanted to share his visions with the world.

I loved reading the backstories to the various characters, shows, and movies.  The extent to which Jim Henson went in order to make his Muppets come to life was truly amazing and inventive, and often far ahead of the times.

I will admit, the first couple of chapters felt a bit slow and it took me a while to really get into it.  But even with the slow start, I found this biography to be captivating, entertaining, and inspiring.  Highly recommend.

If you’re a Muppet fan, here are some other titles to check out…

No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop by Matt Bacon is a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at the place where the magic happens.  My copy was published in 1997 (I’m not sure if any updates have been made) so the full scope of their creations are not included, but I was amazed at the variety of films, television shows, and commercials had used The Creature Shop creations up to that point.

Jim Henson: The Works by Christopher Finch is basically a condensed Henson biography with lots of photos and fun fact sidebars throughout.

And for the kid in all of us, The Muppet’s Big Book of Crafts from The Muppet Workshop offers a wide range of colorful and creative craft ideas.  Easier projects include suncatcher bugs, bread dough monsters,  and rainbow stationery.   Want something a bit more challenging?  How about a spider pinata, a deluxe dollhouse, or a monster collage lamp?  And of course there’s puppets!

Stay safe and Happy Reading!

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