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Jim Henson: The Biography

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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  4,392 ratings  ·  674 reviews
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For the first time ever-a comprehensive biography of one of the twentieth-century's most innovative creative artists: the incomparable, irreplaceable Jim Henson.

He was a gentle dreamer whose genial bearded visage was recognized around the world, but most people got to know him only through the iconic characters born of his fertile imagination: Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ern...more
Hardcover, 585 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jessica
When people ask me why I became a writer, I often cite books that I read as a child, and authors, as being my inspiration. But that's not quite true. That's really what people want to hear (especially if those people are librarians and teachers). But if I had to really, really pick one person who influenced my life, whose work influenced my personality and my writing, I think it would be Jim Henson. I was lucky enough to grow up with parents (especially my mom) who loved Henson's work... all of...more
Christine
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...more
Lee
While I can't exactly rave about the book, I can't deny having a goofy perma-grin on my face throughout most of the reading of it, and shameless tears through the brutal ending. The beginning definitely worried me--there's excessive indulgence in the dullard biographer's instinct to trace the family tree a few generations ahead of the subject and bore you with minutiae that won't be relevant to any later part of the book. Once Jim builds his first muppet, though, the story picks up.

This is defi...more
Naomi
I feel like I read an entirely different memoir from most of the other reviewers on Goodreads, because this is not one I enjoyed. Granted, I did not finish it, but that was after multiple attempts at reading it. I usually force myself to finish all books, whether or not I really enjoy them, so this is rare that I am returning this one unfinished.

I think a major problem I encounter when reading memoirs like this, is that they are often not written from an objective point of view. Perhaps it's due...more
Becky
This is going to be one of those reviews that I constantly change as I think, "omg this part has really stuck with me!" and also because I'm typing on an IPAD that really doesn't show me when things are spelled incorrectly. Any ways...


Of my top five favorite movies of all time three are Muppet movies- THE Muppet Movie, Muppet Treasure Island, and Labyrinth. The other two are subject to change and are currently Pacific Rim and the Avengers, which probably shows that I haven't grown up that much b...more
Ilana Waters
If you want to get a deeper look at the fascinating man that was Jim Henson, this is the book for you. Just don't expect that look to be too deep. Although hundreds of pages are devoted to his artistic and business affairs, I would have liked to know more about Henson's family, how they were coping with his success and long absences, his numerous affairs.

Although well-written and certainly thorough, this biography seemed to be more about “Jim the mogul” than “Jim the man.” And although I know p...more
Shawn Granger
I thought I knew Jim Henson, but I knew nothing. I've been a big fan of the work of Jim Henson, even going so far as learning to make my own puppets since I was 10. And I've seen almost everything that he and his family have done, at least with puppets. And now with my child I've seen most of the computer 3D shows as well. I thought I knew a lot about Jim Henson, but this biography made me realize how little I knew.

The book starts out with a very touching introduction and a glimpse into how the...more
Sarah
I am a pretty big Henson nerd. In college I interned at the Henson Foundation where I was lucky enough to get to see Jim's office, complete with the light up paper moose that is described in the book, tour the creature shop, and to help the Foundation celebrate the craft of contemporary puppetry. I've also read the colorful and photo filled "Jim Henson: The Works", "The Art of the Muppets", which was a catalog for one of the first museum exhibitions. I've seen the more recent museum exhibition,...more
Shannon Yarbrough
I'm not much of a biography reader but having grown up watching Sesame Street and The Muppets back when we only had 3 or 4 channels on a bunny-earred TV (and PBS was fortunately one of them), I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Henson's work. So I knew I wanted to read this bio!

Due out this year on what would be his 77th birthday, this book is definitely for the serious bio reader. There are not a ton of pictures (an insert and a picture at the beginning of each chapter), but you do ge...more
Schuyler Wallace
From his Mississippi upbringing to a world-hopping entrepreneur, Jim Henson had a wild and diverse life that led to fame and affluence as the amiable and imaginative creator of the Muppets. He is celebrated as possibly being the best puppiteer ever, and certainly the most creative. Brian Jay Jones tells Henson’s amazing story in this lengthy and detailed biography that was fully supported by Henson's family, employees at his various companies, and puppeteering colleagues. The details of his life...more
John Lee
I love Jim Henson and all of his works that I've seen. He was an inspiration to me while growing up (even though I never watched Sesame Street as a child and grew up only on Muppet Babies), and I even did a middle school project about his work with Sesame Street. Thus, I was extremely excited when I found out that Brian Jay Jones was writing an official, long-form biography, especially since I had already read Jim Henson: The Works: The Art, the Magic, the Imagination over and over again, and re...more
Aaron
I am of an age in which I had the opportunity to get to enjoy so much of the work that Jim Henson and his teams of puppeteers did over the years that I feel very lucky. This really provides fans, like myself, with a good overview of his lift, giving us a sense of who he was as a person and how his career and business developed over the years.

The work has a great narrative style that just flows naturally. The author makes use of articles and interviews with many of the people in his Henson's life...more
Valerie
I was devastated when Jim Henson died. One of my earliest memories was waking up early on Saturday mornings and being allowed to go downstairs and watch The Muppet Show on TV. I was probably 4 years old. My love for the Muppets, and Jim Henson, has only grown since then. Growing up, I was too young to know much about his life outside of his work, and was excited to read this to learn more about a man I consider one of the top artistic geniuses of the 20th century.

After reading this book, I came...more
Marissa
If you've ever fallen in love with something Muppet-related, this is the book for you. If you wish Jim Henson had been a figure in your personal life (definitely the fun uncle for me), this is the book for you. And if you feel deep down in your heart that the world lost Jim too early, why haven't you read this book already. In this spectacularly written, well-researched, deep exploration of the man (literally) inside Kermit, Ernie, and others, Jones gives you the whole story of Jim's rise from a...more
brenna
So, fair warning: I don't have a lot of (any) critical distance when it comes to Jim Henson. This biography might not be a 5 star one for you, but it really was for me. I think Brian Jay Jones has done an absolutely masterful job telling this story in a way that is totally compelling. I really appreciated Jones' focus on the technological aspects of Henson's career and the ways in which he was a real innovator. If you enjoys the parts of Steve Jobs' biography that dealt with the genesis of produ...more
Jessica
Like so many others, I have a huge sentimental place for the Muppets in my heart. I grew up with Sesame Street and Muppet Babies, theirs is my favorite version of A Christmas Carol, and watching Muppets Tonight is one of a very small handful of things I remember sharing with my father as a child. I'll be first in line to see the new movie in March. I just love the Muppets.

This book is clearly a labor of love for Jones. It clocks in at nearly 500 pages and with over 100 pages of notes and bibliog...more
Ken Bronsil
Jim Henson grew up when television was brand new. People were fascinated with being able to see something happening RIGHT AT THAT EXACT MOMENT hundreds or thousands of miles away. Madcap comedians like Milton Berle, Ernie Kovacs, and Sid Caesar were very frequent performers. So were puppets: the rigid-faced kind like Howdy Doody, or the somewhat flexible-faced kind like Ollie the dragon. The net effect: Henson was hooked. And he stayed enchanted and hooked for the rest of his life, moving from o...more
Andi

Muppets, Jim Henson, his world... it has always been a part of my life. When I heard a biography was being released, I eagerly counted down the days to its release. It was scary and exciting to get an in-depth look at Jim Henson's life - one that I've been so hesitant to explore because I was afraid of letting myself down. What if he was not the person I thought he was in private? So when the book was mine, I took a deep breath and plunged in.

I want you all to know, this book made me cry. More t...more
Callie Rose Tyler
3 1/2 stars

Despite my absolute admiration for anything attached to the Henson name I found that my feelings about this biography were mixed. Let me begin by saying that I am a huge fan of everything Henson from Sesame Street and the Muppets to Fraggle Rock and the Storyteller. Labyrinth is my all time favorite movie and even though I did not realize it Jim Henson also oversaw another film that is close to my heart, The Witches. So despite my love for his work and appreciation of his genius I fou...more
Jillian
I am so thankful that Goodreads allowed me to read this book ahead of time and for free! Not only did I feel exclusive (haha) but I also was so excited to pick up this book and read it. As a child who grew up with the Muppets and Sesame Street, I found the behind the scenes knowledge in this book to be fascinating. I truly did not even really think about the Muppets being puppets until I read this book which is a true testament to Henson's genius. What a guy too! He was a generous, loving, and r...more
Jennifer
This isn't just a biography, it's a love letter for the creative process and how one man lived it whole-heartedly. I learned that Jim Henson was not perfect (my heart ached for his wife, Jane), but he possessed the kind of personality to make others aspire to be better people - and he believed in them, in return. Maybe we all catch some of his positivity through his Muppets...I know the world seems brighter after an episode of Veterinary Hospital.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how he broke...more
Brynn
Brian Jay Jones wrote one thorough biography on Jim Henson's life and work. Though I appreciated the long backstory-- the bio actually starts two generations before the birth of Jim Henson, on either side of his family-- I'll admit that at some points I was feeling a little eager to get to the Muppets. What I didn't appreciate before reading this book is how many projects Jim Henson had his fingers in-- including many that never came to be, because his imagination was ahead of technology. Readin...more
Peyton
I just can't write a review of this book. It has been five weeks since I finished it, but my thoughts defy being written down. Jim Henson is my hero, and I loved finally having the opportunity to read his whole story, and I think therefore this book lies too close to my heart to give it an objective review. I liked some of it, hated some of it, and loved some of it, but I don't know if credit (or blame) goes to Brian Jay Jones, Jim Henson, or somehow both. I am glad I read it, but I don't know h...more
Jay
This reminds me of the Steve Jobs biography. It's not just the cover black and white photo. It's that the subject, like Jobs, was a business builder that had a unique way of working. Jobs came across as a bully, while Henson comes across as somewhat the opposite - a fellow too gentle to run a company. Jobs seems to use intolerance, in a broad sense, as a management tool, while Henson was the artist-leader, avoiding conflict. I said when I reviewed Jobs book I would have hated working for him, an...more
Dylan Desilva
I think that Jim Henson: The Biography was a awesome book. This book has many cool facts about him that I did not know. Things like where he lived and what his childhood was like. It also goes into how shows like Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fragle Rock came to be. Not only does it talk about how they came to be but who and what inspired him to have such a passion for puppets. I think the book was a little long but what can you expect from a book about a man who did so much in his all to...more
Meltha
I'm not sure I can really fully react to this book immediately after finishing it, but I'm going to try to. It's huge, and it's exhaustively researched, and it goes into tremendous depth on many, many aspects of Henson's life. I read and loved Finch's "The Works," which focuses more on the different projects Jim did and the art he created, but Jones zooms in on what was going on for the company, the family, and Jim himself. I'm not sure I ever got entirely into Jim's head. This is still Henson s...more
Erin
I remember I was in line for a ride at Kings Dominion when I found out that Jim Henson had died. There were TVs sporadically placed in the line, getting people hyped up for what was to come, when they suddenly changed to a news report. I don't think my own parents cried, but I definitely remember seeing other grown ups crying and thinking that something very serious had taken place.

I can't say enough great things about this narrator. He really captures Jim Henson's speaking voice, as well as his...more
Mike
Author had incredible access to Jim Henson's family and associates. They seem to have made the choice not to discuss money or his many girlfriends any more than the bare minimum. This is still an excellent book about an amazing person. What strikes me most is his relationship with fellow performer Frank Oz (Bert, Fozzie, Miss Piggy) - they should be remembered among the greatest comedy duos of any era.

Came from loving family who encouraged his artistic side, he wanted to be in TV from a young a...more
Joel
Who doesn't love the Muppets? I know I do, and clearly author Brian Jay Jones does as well. While I was interested enough in Henson's life, ups, and downs to keep reading, however, I wish Jones had as much creativity in writing about Henson as Henson had in writing about, say, coffee advertisements. It's not that this was a bad book. It was just much flatter than I expected it to be.

Granted, I'm much more of a fiction than a biography kind of guy, so perhaps I just came at the story of Henson's...more
Tony
JIM HENSON: The Biography. (2013). Brian Jay Jones. ****.
Anyone who has kids would know who Jim Henson was. Most of our kids grew up on Sesame Street, in addition to making sure that we all went to the various Muppet movies. Most of us were amazed at what the Muppets could do. I still remember watching the beginning of “The Muppet Movie,” and seeing Kermit riding a bike. How did they do that? These secrets and more are revealed (kind-of) in this recent biography. It is a good biography of Henson...more
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209924
Brian Jay Jones is an award-winning writer and biographer and presently serves as president of Biographers International Organization, the world’s largest organization of practicing biographers. Jones is a devoted member of the Jim Henson generation, having been two years old when Sesame Street premiered in 1969 and nine when The Muppet Show debuted in 1976. A former policy analyst and advisor in...more
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“Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it.' - Jim” 2 likes
“When Jim left the planet so suddenly, all of us who loved him, worked with him, were inspired by him, gathered in New York City. We were like dandelion seeds clinging to the stem and to each other. And on May 16th, [the day Jim died] the wind began to blow. There’s no stem any more. We’re all floating on the breeze. And it’s scary and exhilarating, and there’s nothing we can do about it. But gradually, we’ll all drift to the ground and plant ourselves. And no matter what we grow into, it’ll be influenced by Jim. We’re Jim’s seeds. And it’s not only those of us who knew him. Everyone who was touched by his work is a Jim-seed.” 2 likes
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