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Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  2,563 Ratings  ·  579 Reviews
The story of one of the most important and beloved shows on television-how it got started, nearly failed, and was saved by Elmo.

When the first episode aired on November 10, 1969, Sesame Street revolutionized the way education was presented to children on television. It has since become the longest-running children's show in history, and today reaches 8 million preschoolers
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Hardcover, 380 pages
Published December 26th 2008 by Viking Adult (first published December 24th 2008)
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Sarah
Mar 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
I had such high hopes for this book, instead it was ridiculous. There was way too much information on people who really had little--if any--relevance to Sesame Street. For each person who did matter there were pages upon pages about the ancestry of that person. Do you really care what the great grandparents of the original executive producer did for a living? I'm pretty sure this guy wrote down every single note of research he did for this book as about half of it had nothing to do with anything ...more
Dan C.
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Sesame Street, people interested in late 20th century pop culture
Recommended to Dan by: Heidi Cullinan
There are some very valid criticisms of this book in the other reviews listed on this site. Yes, it is a bit misnamed because rather than being a Complete History of Sesame Street, it is more of a Complete History of the key players behind the making of Sesame Street. The first half of the book contains nearly every excruciating detail of anyone that was even remotely involved in the making of the show.

However, if you persevere through all this, the last half of the book has tremendous payoff. O
...more
Brian
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it
An informative, almost clincal, look at the people and personalities involved in bringing Sesame Street to life. Manage your expectations, though -- this is no year-by-year review of what occured on the show. In fact, the first show doesn't even air until slightly over mid-way through the book. Mostly, it's the story of a core group of educators, advocates, producers, financers, artists, and entertainers who turned a dinner party question -- "Can television be used to teach children?" -- into an ...more
Joseph
Dec 17, 2008 rated it liked it
Not what I was expecting, but not bad. More a history of the business of making the show than a history of what happened on the show throughout the years. I was kind of expecting a history of the storylines and the developments of the characters, but this was more the story of the people who worked in the background and made it all possible. A well-written, informative work nonetheless.
Sarah
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dewey-section
They definitely taught me how to read before I went to school. We only had about two picture books* in the house but Sesame Street and Electric Company taught me so much. And The Muppet Show, less skill-based, was another constant favorite of mine for several years right before bedtime, not to mention Muppet Babies, which was excellent. And so far I love this book. But I got sad at the Jim Henson dying part. :'(


*The Tomtin and the Fox and The Velveteen Rabbit.
Betsy
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
The television show that can appeal to children and make parents feel like they are good parents and upright citizens for showing it to their kids, that is where the money lies, my friends. Growing up I was not a discerning television viewer. I watched Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, Pinwheel, Today’s Special, and a whole host of bad cartoons ranging from Space Ghost to that bizarre time traveling one that was basically just a half hour commercial for Laser Tag. There was maybe only one show amongs ...more
Margaret
Aug 04, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Wow. I had such high hopes, but man, this was poorly written. Davis seemed compelled to include every random fact he discovered while researching the book, whether or not it had any remote relation to Sesame Street, or was even mildly interesting. One hundred and twenty pages into a 350 page book, and we're only up to a written proposal that maybe there should be a television show that tries to educate kids. But we've had time for mentions of Fred Friendly taking on McCarthy, the number of bridg ...more
Terry
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
THIS BOOK IS AWESOME! THAT IS ALL. Okay, after reading other reviews, I'll add more. I would have to agree with (the very NITPICKY) reviewers who specify this is more a history of the FORMATION of the Sesame Street and the backgrounds of its producers and performers. I don't know what other people were expecting; what, 200 pages devoted to Elmo? It is also an excellent history of early television itself. What I found most fascinating was the link between the formation of Sesame Street and Presid ...more
Tiffany
Feb 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: television
I'm an adult, and realize that TV shows are not real, that the characters are actors, and that "Josh Lyman" isn't a real person, but rather Bradley Whitford portraying a character. Despite the fact that I'm an adult and understand how TV and the Land of Make-Believe works, I still forget that the people on Sesame Street aren't real people, but are *characters*. I swear, if I ever saw this man, I'd yell "Gordon!"

The book started out a bit slow for me--I wanted to read about Sesame Street, but Dav
...more
Jon
May 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Social trends, complaints about the banality of children's television, professional ambitions and personal genius combined in a profoundly unlikely way in the 1960s to produce Sesame Street, a show of unparalleled influence that taught generations of children to count and read. At the center of a cast of interesting characters to breathe the show to life was Jim Henson, a puppet performer who saw himself as an entertainer of adults first and foremost, but also as someone who had something to say ...more
Mallory
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it
This book had so much potential and I was excited to get to read it, but I found it slow going for the first 10-12 chapters; while it gives great background information about the driving forces behind Sesame Street and the people who created it, it leaves me wanting more about what actually happened on screen, as opposed to off. Apparently Sesame Street Unpaved is more satisfying, but I've ODed on the Street for now. This book has some interesting information and some fun tidbits, but it didn't ...more
Robin
More a history of the evolution of educational television for children than a mere celebration of Sesame Street. Davis weaves in the life stories of all the major players, doesn't shy away from politics, and makes it all a delicious read.

I saw this on the "New Books" display in one of the libraries where I've been working and had to read it! Couple this with a family viewing of the new DVD box set, and you have yourself a '70s preschool nostalgia extravaganza.



Bonnie
When I was in grad school, I signed up for a class called Death and Literature. The description sounded awesome and I was being a bit morbid. What it turned out to be was a philosophy class in literature class clothing, which resulted in me reading Heidegger for weeks at a time, only occasionally broken up by "She" or "Dracula." The few moments of awesomeness did not make up for the fact that I was dragged through "Being and Time." And that's what reading "Street Gang" is like.

This is not a comp
...more
Ozma
A thorough history of the inception and creation of Sesame Street. Basically, the daughter of an executive at the Carnegie Corporation was staring at the "Native American" filler screen on television every morning before the cartoons would start. The exec thought to himself, could television be used to teach children? And it all snowballed from there. Unfortunately, not much insider gossip but enough to interest you. The personalities that worked on this show and their quirks are incredibly inte ...more
Carin
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
So when I finished reading this book, I went online and watched "C is for Cookie," "These Are the People in Your Neighborhood," "Rubber Duckie," and "It's Not Easy Being Green." I also watched Johnny Cash singing "Five Feet High and Rising" with the help of Biff, the Martians discovering a fan, and David doing some disco roller-skating. Mr. Hooper counted to three with the help of chairs, and a baker fell down the stairs carrying three birthday cakes. Being a chld of the '70s, I am not a fan of ...more
Emilia P
Mar 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: real-books
Yes, the style of this book -- interview snippet after interview snippet after disjointed point in Sesame Street's history was not so hot.
I thought it worked just fine as Sesame Street was still a twinkle in the eyes of its creators. The complicated process of gathering both the entertainers and experts on children's education and the revolutionary idea of setting the show in the inner city in a way that could interest inner city kids as well as just about every other kid in the world really all
...more
cubbie
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
it's funny because i feel like i'm the opposite of a lot of reviewers for this book, but i also agree with a lot of the points.

unlike many, i loved the first half of this book. i couldn't put it down, and i loved the in-depth narrative and the showbiz myths a lot. i told a bunch of people about it, and actually compared it to harry potter and twilight and the way people read those (fyi, i don't like hp, and i haven't read twilight. they aren't really my genre.). for me, it was that addictive, fl
...more
Michele
This book is AMAZING!!!! It has obviously been many many years since I sat down and watched Sesame Street, but this book made me not only want to sit and watch Sesame Street, but also to look up clips from Sesame Street from when I was a kid. The amount of work, effort, research, time, care, love, and devotion to creating a show that would entertain while educating, and educating while entertaining pre-school kids is astonishing. I am in awe of all of those who pioneered children's television th ...more
Sarah
Jan 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
As a child who grew up watching Sesame Street, it's hard not to get emotional about this one. On one level it's a glowing portrait of what happens when a bunch of really decent people get together to do a nice thing for children. It makes it much easier to understand how Sesame Street has survived and thrived for years, because it's never been about just one person and has always been a team effort, with key players coming and going throughout the years allowing the show to adapt and change with ...more
Melissa Lindsey
Feb 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memior
Sesame Street was born the same year that I was, so I can't remember a life without strong educational programing. I gravitated to this book because of the cover -- even at 45 I can't seem to resist the characters from Sesame street with their complex personalities, grand sense of human, and bright colors. This book had me search YouTube to watch some of my favorite bits from the show, as well as searching out some of the moments that were described in the book.

Normally, I struggle with books th
...more
Mike Jensen
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is an indispensible mess. Too scholarly for general readers and too general for scholarly readers, it does not include a survey of scholarly articles about the effectiveness of the series that scholars will expect, but includes a long chapter on the history of CAPTAIN KANGEROO, exactly the kind of detail that scholars expect but will bore many other readers when the information pertinent to the story Davis tells could be summarized in two paragraphs. The documentation is below scholarl ...more
Mikey B.
Feb 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Burt & Ernie, Oscar and Elmo (who came in the 90’s) – all of these are common household names and icons. Who would have thought this with the show’s first appearance in 1969.

This book details the gestation period of Sesame Street. This almost takes us half-way through the book before we get to the first TV show. There are many details on the myriad personalities involved. It definitely proves that Sesame Street was a team effort of a wide assortment of personalities
...more
Elaine
Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Wow. The only reason this book doesn't get 5 stars is because I wanted more pictures! Full profiles of almost everyone involved in Sesame Street give this book more of a collective biography feel. But there were so many things that I didn't know about the series contained in this book. My favorite parts:

Learning how the puppeteers gradually create their characters over time and that the person below often changes before a muppet finds its perfect match. This section read like "Muppet Morsels" fr
...more
Greg
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. However, there was way too much back story. Sesame Street has been on the air for 40 years, but we don't get to the airing of the premier episode until two-thirds the way through the book. We quickly rush through the first ten years of the show, then start covering the deaths of many of the principals. Facts are often laid out in an odd order. For example, about the tenth time Tom Whedon's name is mentioned, we learn that he is the father of Joss Whedon, someth ...more
Sandra Frey
Jul 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's quite an interesting story, particularly the combination of forces that connected a plucky band of idealistic and dedicated researchers with the wizard that was Jim Henson. I listened to the audio version narrated by Carroll Spinney (Big Bird). Interestingly, he did a nice impersonation of Henson, but watered down his voices (to my ear) when quoting his own characters, like he didn't want it to seem too shticky. Still, it was warming to hear the story told in a familiar cadence, and it adde ...more
Meaghan
This book took me over two months to read. I kept renewing it from the library, because I knew I just needed the right mood and the right timing to really dig in to this history. There are so many interesting facts and names and connections in this web of the beginnings of children's TV, I wanted to be able to absorb and remember them all. I'd say I read the second half of this tome in about a week and a half (which is good for me!) I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Sesame Stre ...more
Karen Germain
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took a long time to get through, because it was a very dry read. The title is “Street Gangs: The Complete History of Sesame Street.” This is not an understatement. The author, Michael Davis, is detailed to a fault. It seems very unnecessary to find out the meals served at important meetings or the History of every single person that ever was a PA on the show. In his efforts to give a complete History, Davis alienated me. I started this book back in December and have had to read it in s ...more
Jonathan Simpson
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have a two-year old who loves Sesame Street. And I still pretty much love it, too. Getting to read a book like this when the show is so front and center in my life was a treat. The care and diligence that Michael Davis put into this book is clear, and he makes the bureaucratic whirlwind that led to the initial season really, really interesting, all while letting Jim Henson and his creations take a back seat.

It's a great read for any fan of the show. I really liked it, but I think it peters out
...more
James Marsh
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is more than “just the history of Sesame Street” (but it is that too.) The story begins with how the idea of educational programming for children began and how the development of Sesame Street began.

The mini biographies of the creators and cast members remind one that Sesame Street is not just a place for colorful muppets to inhabit, but also real people who knew pain, struggle and adversity as keenly as anyone else.

The program has never shied away from trying to educate and inform children
...more
Susie
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I didn't really know how to rate this. The information in this book is incredibly interesting, but that is all that really carries the book because the editing is TERRIBLE in so many ways. The chapter organization hardly makes sense. There are clear errors throughout (one time the author called Joan Ganz Cooney's - one of Children's Television Workshop's founders - mother by her sister's name. A clear error that anyone who was paying attention would have caught. it annoyed me). Also, it feels as ...more
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“Here we are sitting at the Waldorf in a conference room... and in comes someone with long hair and wearing an outfit dripping leather. I remember whispering to Dave Connell, "How do we know that man back there isn't going to throw a bomb up here or toss a hand grenade?"
Connell, always one to keep a cool head, assessed the situation with care. He discreetly turned his head toward the back and realized he recognized the tall, angular man carrying a small purse under his arm. A slight smile curled as he assured Cooney the hippie back there posed no threat.
"Not likely, that's Jim Henson," he said.”
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“In the history of show business, there probably never was a straighter straight man than banana-yellow Bert, the paper clip collector and pigeon fancier.” 5 likes
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