Valerie's Reviews > Jim Henson's Muppet Stories: Stories to Grow on

Jim Henson's Muppet Stories by Jim Henson
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Aug 23, 2011

I have to admit that I approached this book with considerable trepidation. I fell in love with Jim Henson when I was a small child, back in the Ed Sullivan days, when I saw a bit with a skin diver being harassed by an obnoxious and punny fish. Finally the man screams "Why are you doing this to me?" And the fish shrugs and replies "Oh, just for the halibut."

I've sought out many different forms of Henson's work, and found them of very uneven quality. And this book, published the year after Henson's death, probably had little direct input from Henson himself (he's not even listed in the credits, though the series is under the umbrella of his name).

As it turned out, the trepidation was well justified. Strip out the Muppet (and Fraggle) characters and names, and there's nothing to mark this book out from a hundred other patronizing and offensive 'educational' children's books.

One of the things I always loved about Sesame Street and the Muppets in general was that they WEREN'T smarmy, and didn't talk down to children. They treated children as intelligent (if often unsophisticated) partners in their own learning, and respected them enough to include jokes they knew the children wouldn't understand (leaving aside the Monsterpiece Theatre segment Monster in A Box ("No ego problem there..."), how many children do you suppose could really identify Carmen Miranda, who frequently appeared on Sesame Street, in one guise or another?). Children are perfectly capable of doing research, and it enriches their lives to be exposed to things they know they don't understand--but could, with a little more information. How many of us learned most of what we know of opera from Bugs Bunny, for example?

Oh, well. If nothing else, this book is a souvenir of a wealthier time in my life, when I could count on rich, bizarre gifts materializing unexpectedly on my tv. As nostalgia for a lost Golden Age, it's somewhat heartbreaking. I've read it, but likely won't do so again. Instead, I'll go back to recordings of the 'good old days', for as long as they last.

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