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The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  511 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
An inspiring message for all ages: Find your inner bird.

If you’re looking for wisdom and joy in your life, go straight to Sesame Street and heed the words of its most beloved and profound resident, Caroll Spinney, who has spent the past thirty-four years in a bird costume (and a trash can) as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

Three decades inside a giant puppet have taught Spi
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published April 29th 2003 by Villard
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Sep 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: any Sesame Street and/or Jim Henson fan
A Christmas gift, I finally had a chance to read The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers by Caroll Spinney.

More of an autobiography than the philosophical musings one might expect from the title - this slim book brought many a smile to my face (and the occasional tear to my eyes) as Spinney recalled his 30+ years working in the world of puppetry and with Sesame Street and Jim Henson. Spinney's interest in puppetry began as a child; he sta
Nov 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
Spinney knows The Secret - living your life (inner and outer) in such a way so as to manifest your dreams into reality. That said...

...was disenchanted to learn that Jim Henson once kicked Ernie out of the way...and when Spinney picked up, brushed off and apologized to Ernie, Henson was, like, "Whoah, dude. You don't really talk to puppets do you??"

...was shocked to learn that a guest punched Big Bird's beak for flubbing a line. And the effect - to the cast and crew - was that the guest (an unna
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
I wanted something different and this looked cute. I've never been a raving fan of the show, nor or celebrity memoirs, but this scratched my itch. I can definitely say that fans will enjoy it. The art, by Spinney himself, is whimsical, the factoids and anecdotes interesting, and the whole thing short enough for a single day's read (or one sitting if you immerse yourself).
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
Confession: I still love Sesame Street. It breaks my heart that my son is now "too old" for the show, and I still force him to watch any new specials they make, or movies with the Muppets. Conversely, I really hate most of today's totally shitty children's television that plays 24/7 on several channels. Just blech, as Oscar would say.

Onto the book--I enjoyed this short memoir, wherein Spinney (now about 85 years old) desceibes not only how he came to be involved with Sesame Street, but how he h
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing

It's entirely plausible that the 2012 US presidential election's outcome was due to one candidate threatening to cut funding for PBS. This would have ultimately deprived the world of Big Bird.

Big Bird may not be your favorite "Sesame Street" character, but he is the heart and soul of the show. Oscar the Grouch and Grover are my favorites, yet when I think of "Sesame Street", it's that big yellow beloved bird that comes to mind.

There's no way I can give a book written by the lovely man who has b
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Moving personal account from an international treasure. I wish he was my grandpa.
Jul 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-read
Caroll Spinney is the man behind (or in?) Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. This novel is presented as life lessons learned from being Big Bird, but it's really a short look at how Spinney became Big Bird and the adventures he had as him. Sesame Street was a big part of my childhood. I watched it fairly frequently, enjoyed the muppets, and even had my own little version of Big Bird at home. This path down memory lane for Spinney was enjoyable to read as a grown up fan.

It gives you a bit of insight
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading a traditional book takes me forever, but Big Bird was so worth it.
Nov 21, 2008 rated it liked it
The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from Life in Feathers
Caroll Spinney
Copyright 2003
Villard Books, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group
159 Pages

I know what you're thinking: "Sesame Street, Conor really?" You may not know this about me, but I'm just slightly , kind of sort of really Muppet obsessed. More so now in my youth then when I was six watching Maria, Gordon, and Cookie Monster on Sesame Street in my room after school. I've ever been
Juanda Metta
Jun 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Bekerjalah sepenuh hati, jangan ambil karena uang, ambil karena karena kau menyayanginya.

Big Bird merupakan tokoh rekaan yang mampu dengan mudah memikat hati, baik anak ataupun dewasa. Terkandung kasih sayang dalam setiap penampilannya. Legenda.
Douglas Lord
Nov 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
This disappointing title does little more than skim Spinney's career; he has been donning "the suit" that is Big Bird for 34 years (coauthor Milligan worked for Sesame Street as an interactive media writer). Spinney's modesty--initially refreshing--quickly annoys as readers realize that he has nothing of import to say. The book drowns in vagueness and hokey reflections: "I guess what I do is bring Big Bird his soul" While some material promises a payoff, as when Spinney describes the thrill of p ...more
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was hoping for far more from this thin volume than I got. I felt as if the author was telling me the entire story from inside the Big Bird puppet, and adopting the Bird's character throughout: naïve and childlike. The only moment I found the least bit touching was the author's description of the scene where the adult human characters talk to Big Bird about the death of Mr. Hooper, and what it means to die. This was particularly poignant because the actor who played Mr. Hooper, Will Lee, had ju ...more
Apr 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Caroll Spinney has been Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since "Sesame Street" was created in 1969. In this book, he shares his memories of being on the show and what he has learned about himself and life. Each chapter is a different lesson, like "Listen to your Cabbie" or "Don't Let Your Feathers get Ruffled." I liked this book a lot for two reasons: first, it was fun to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes of one of my favorite shows growing up (for example, did you know that Big Bird ...more
Baca buku ini bikin teringat sama acara Sesame Street yang dulu pernah tayang di salah satu tv swasta. Karena dulu sering nontonin juga jadi nostalgia.
Selain big bird, ada oscar yang tinggalnya di tempat sampah (dan ternyata diperankan oleh orang yang sama), elmo yang imut, mr.snookers sang gajah, bert & ernie yang sering bertentangan, cookie monster, dan masih banyak lagi yang lainnya. Bahkan sampai ada drakula segala kalau ga salah.
Buku ini bercerita tentang pengalaman Carol Spinney sejak
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This inspirational book gives readers the behind the scenes of the beginning days of Sesame Street and Caroll’s journey to play the role of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. I loved reading about his passion for puppets and the steps he took that eventually landed him the job as the most popular and famous bird ever!

Favorite chapters: “Become who you always were” and “Give it a Month.” Both of these chapters helped me appreciate Caroll's commitment to his dreams and inspired me to never give up on
Sep 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who grew up with Sesame Street
Do you know how Big Bird works?!?!? I had no idea until I went to a Muppet exhibit yesterday. After learning that and finding out that the same man who IS Big Bird is also Oscar the Grouch, I couldn't NOT buy this guy's book.

The book goes from Spinney's autobiography (in the context of puppets and Muppets), to Big Bird/Oscar anecdotes, and occasional inspirational blather. But, to be honest, I can take a lot of inspirational blather from Sesame Street. I love it so.

This was short and sweet and c
Katie Nelson
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of Sesame Street and the Muppets and I was curious to learn more about the man in the Bird (and the grouch) as I really didn't know much about him. It turns out that he's really a lot like Big Bird (or maybe that's the other way around?) because he's very kind and caring. The way the puppet works makes being the Bird very taxing work. I don't know how he's done it all these years! But bravo to him for doing so much to bring joy to children around the world.

I especially enjoyed his
Jan 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who ever loved Sesame Street
Shelves: read-in-09

Oh, I just absolutely loved this. As a child who worshipped Sesame Street and wanted so very badly to hug the holy hell out of Big Bird (and just sort of sleep on him...god, he looked so soft), this book is just the greatest thing ever.

The stories are revealing, and funny. Also incredibly touching, especially his first trip to China, with Bob Hope, and the chapter devoted to Jim Henson. That one had tears in my eyes.

What a wonderful, quick read. Highly recommended.
Aug 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sweet story about a sweet puppeteer

I have always loved big bird, and by extension Mr. Spinney. I've had this book for awhile but hadn't had a chance to sit down and read it til now. It's a sweet walk down memory lane of a person who has been a part of most of our childhood memories. It's a sweet easy read, and you can really see why big bird is the sweet gentle character he is by reading his creator's story. If you're looking for dish and gossip this isn't it, but if you're looking for the stor
Liz W
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: any fan of sesame st or jim henson
Recommended to Liz by: no one. heard about it. huge henson fan, so i got it.
this book was written by carol spinney, fan of henson, who ended up working with him and doing big bird and oscar the grouch for years.

i had seen an interview with him prior to reading the book where he equates working with henson to being asked to be a member of the beatles. just awesome.

this book has many anecdotes of his times working with henson, on sesame street, the story of the girl they did "big bird goes to china" with, getting punched in costume by rappers, and he tells the story of he
Elaine Meszaros
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Spinney is probably the most famous man no-one has ever heard of. He's been on the cover of Time, traveled the world and performed with the likes of Bob Hope and the Rockettes, conducted orchestras, appeared as a guest on every late-night talk show and has been on tv for 40 years. All of this was done playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Spinney's short and very sweet book tells of his early interests in puppets, his friendship with Jim Henson and the incredible rise and popularity of Sesame S ...more
John Nondorf
Nov 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This would be 3.5 stars if I could give half-stars. I think Caroll Spinney is great and love the character of Big Bird. Spinney tells many stories about his early work and his celebrated career at Sesame Street, but the writing just didn't grab me. Each chapter is titled with a bit of advice and a quotation to underscore the message and the stories in each chapter relate to the advice. This is fine and a quick read, but I highly recommend seeing I Am Big Bird to truly look at the performer and t ...more
Jun 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in a day or so & loved it so much! This book is written by the sole puppeter of Big Bird & Oscar the Grouch &, holy moly, he seems like such a happy, grateful, average, hard-working guy. I loved learning about how the Bird actually works, along w/ the behind-the-scenes stories about the Street. Each chapter of the book is titled w/ what the lesson is to be learned from that set of pages but, really, the titles are just dumb & catchy & mean nothing. But, man- ...more
I'm obsessed with anything to do with The Muppets and Sesame Street was one of my favorite shows growing up. This book was kind of a sparse memoir- focusing mainly on his work, not his life- but it had lots of random tidbits about working with Jim Henson, and how the puppets work, and the evolution of the Big Bird character. This makes me more interested in the documentary about the guy who plays Elmo. It's such a strange career to have, playing a puppet, and these guys have done it for decades.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Light and fluffy memoir mixed with some 'words of wisdom'.
Spinny is a likable guy and it is so interesting to get a look from the inside of the Henson empire.
Wish he'd spent more time on the behind the scenes stuff and the history of the Muppets.
Fascinating stuff and every chapter seemed too short. I wanted more.

Doesn't make this a bad book, just that I'm greedy.

Lots of nice moments. If you don't tear up at the Mr, Hooper chapter, you have no soul.

Only wish all the chapter quotes had been from B
Brian Merrill
May 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Caroll Spinney is a living legend, having performed both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the very first episode of Sesame Street. This way-to-short look into Caroll's life tells the story of those early days of Sesame Street, how he found Big Bird's and Oscar's voice, as well as Caroll's own story. This moving account was well worth reading and I'd recommend it to anyone who grew up watching Sesame Street as I did.
Claire Blomeley
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's an easy read, but makes me appreciate the creative genius behind Big Bird, and also behind all the muppets. Those who were expecting more anecdotes, etc. The way this story is told makes me respect Mr Spinney all the more for not telling negative tales of his workplace and coworkers. I found this book told Caroll Spinney's story with a positive slant and i enjoyed that. I think it fits with Big Bird's ethos.
Jamie Long
Jul 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
Like many people in the world...really, the world...I grew up with Sesame Street. I hold these Muppets very fondly, and The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers is a fantastic reflection from the man inside Big Bird. Yes, the title is a bit of a mouthful, but the anecdotes are fantastic. If you have ever watched Sesame Street or even seen a Muppet, this is a must read.
Lori Goldstein
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Melissa, Mad Scientist, Kathleen,Monica, Sharon, Gizella, Sabine,Jen, Kim
This memoir was written as if Mr. Spinney was speaking directly to the reader. I especially enjoyed the stories he told about Jim Hensen's car in London painted a Kermit the Frog green and the fancy headlights when popped up looked like Kermit's eyes. Overall I liked hearing about what happened behind the scenes of this iconic TV and Big Bird's humble beginnings as well as Oscar the Grouch.
Feb 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was a fast and fun read. It was interesting to read about some of the behind the scenes type stuff. I didn't know that the same man has been playing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since Sesame Street began. The man who plays Big Bird shares some of his experiences he's had because of Big Bird, and some of the things he's learned along the way.
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“Jim [Henson] had written letters to his five children to be opened only after his death. Brian read from his. Jim wrote, 'Be good to each other. Love and forgive everybody.' I remembered Jim telling me that he never wasted energy on hating anybody; he had too much thinking to do.” 23 likes
“Always start the day with a smile— that way you get it over with. —OSCAR THEGROUCH” 1 likes
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