Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kid Konnection: Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with a very "timely" book!

Summary: Sesame Street and The Muppet Show introduced Jim Henson's Muppets to the world, making Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch, and Big Bird household names. But even as a child in rural Mississippi, listening to the radio and putting on comedy shows for his family, Jim recognized the power of laughter to bring people together. On Sesame Street, Jim's Muppets transformed children's television by making learning fun for kids everywhere. A visionary, Jim always believed that puppets could reach a wider audience. In 1976, he proved it, drawing millions of family viewers to The Muppet Show. With his feature film The Dark Crystal and his Star Wars characters—including Yoda—Jim continued to push the boundaries of what was possible in puppetry until his death in 1990 at the age of 53.

Kathleen Krull, recipient of the Children's Book Guild 2011 Non-fiction Award and many other accolades, once again does what she does so well—illuminating the life of an important figure in history, art, and culture with her informative but approachable writing style. -- Random House

I'm pretty sure I mentioned this before on my blog, but I am a huge Muppets fan. I have fantastic memories of watching Sesame Street as a preschooler and then The Muppet Show as a pre-teen. In fact, I remember watching The Muppet Show with my family every week and looking forward to Miss Piggy and Kermit's banter. Even as an adult, I still look forward to seeing Muppet Vision 3D at Hollywood Studios each and every visit to Walt Disney World. I guess you could say I just love those furry critters.

So now that there is a new Muppet Movie out, I am beside myself with excitement. I am planning on taking both of my kids on Monday although they definitely aren't as excited as I am to see it. I, for one, can hardly wait. I even got more excited when I started reading all of the fantastic reviews. Entertainment Weekly and People Magazine both said that it's supposed to be really good. I'll let you know what we think sometime in the next few days.

Because the Muppets are now everywhere (they were even on Saturday Night Live last weekend), I figured that now is the perfect time to feature JIM HENSON: THE GUY WHO PLAYED WITH PUPPETS by Kathleen Krull. I received this book a few months ago, but Booking Son didn't pick this one out of his pile right away --  I guess he's not as big of a Kermit the Frog fan as his mom. However, after our parent-teacher conference last week, his first grade teacher suggested that we read more non-fiction together; and I immediately grabbed this picture book biography.

Booking Son and I rarely read non-fiction, but we both really enjoyed JIM HENSON. It was a wonderful book about a truly amazing man. Booking Son was thrilled to learn some Muppets facts such as how Kermit got his name and how Jim Henson made Kermit. While there were many other interesting tidbits, Booking Son was most impressed that Jim Henson helped design Master Jedi Yoda and some of the characters in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies.

JIM HENSON tells the life story of Jim Henson -- from his childhood to his death. I know that is probably obvious based on the title, but I appreciated that Booking Son could learn so much about Mr. Henson's childhood --  from his family, to the games he liked to play, to his vivid imagination. In fact, there were quite a few pages devoted to his younger years, and I think these parts made the man seem more real to Booking Son. When prompted, Booking Son could regurgitate almost everything about Mr. Henson's early years. It certainly made an impression on him.

The story continued to Jim Henson's college years (he majored in Home Economics) as well as the creation of his first puppets and his entry into local television. It followed his career to the days at Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and his role in movie-making. However, I also really liked seeing some glimpses into his personal life, i.e. how he met his wife as well as his role as a father of four. The book ends with Mr. Henson's unexpected death and his beautiful funeral which was filled with butterfly puppets.

I just loved JIM HENSON: THE GUY WHO PLAYED WITH PUPPETS and so did Booking Son. We ended up discussing the book for quite a long time after we finished reading it together. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the gorgeous illustrations in this picture book by the husband and wife team of Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Each page was filled with their wonderful paintings of Mr. Henson's early life, his family, and of course, his puppets and Muppets.

JIM HENSON: THE GUY WHO PLAYED WITH PUPPETS is one of the best picture books that I've read this year. It is a very special book about a very special man, and I think you'll be touched with this inspiring story.

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm sure it's true the illustrations inside are beautiful because the one on the cover is. But I would be worried this one is sad (I mean, worried for me, not for kids!) Did you get sad reading it?

Serena said...

Wow, this must be gorgeous. I must get this for my cousin.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds outstanding! I've always loved the Muppets too.

By the way, the three of us went to see The Muppet Movie and we all thought it was great. There was a pretty good crowd at the theater, and in that crowd, there was only one kid! lol

Anonymous said...

I also have fond memories of watching the Muppets on TV, and my oldest son loved the movies despite never having watched them weekly like I did. He was a very talented man.

Beth F said...

I love the Muppets! Can't wait to see the new movie.

Melissa said...

We just came back from the Muppet movie and it was beyond great. I was crying on at least three different occasions, which is unusual for me. As I said in my blog post, they did Jim Henson proud.

You'll absolutely love it.

Jenn's Bookshelves said...

Since seeing The Muppets movie, my six-year-old is now obsessed with The Muppets! I'll definitely have to get a copy of this book for him!

Carol said...

I'm such a Muppet fan too. I wish Amber was still young enough to read this one with.