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Jim Henson: The Biography

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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 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 Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were only part of his remarkable story. This extraordinary biography--written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family--covers the full arc of Henson's all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in Washington D.C., New York, and London, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Jim Henson's family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives--including never-before-seen interviews, business documents, and Henson's private letters--Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson's contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly ten year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson's non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth-as well as fascinating misfires like Henson's dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub or of staging an elaborate, all-puppet Broadway show. An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose deal making prowess won him a reputation as "the new Walt Disney," and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson's intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing; his love of fast cars, high-stakes gambling, and expensive art; and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life-a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well-founded. An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture-and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.


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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 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 Ernie, Miss Piggy, Big Bird. The Muppets made Jim Henson a household name, but they were only part of his remarkable story. This extraordinary biography--written with the generous cooperation of the Henson family--covers the full arc of Henson's all-too-brief life: from his childhood in Leland, Mississippi, through the years of burgeoning fame in Washington D.C., New York, and London, to the decade of international celebrity that preceded his untimely death at age fifty-three. Drawing on hundreds of hours of new interviews with Jim Henson's family, friends, and closest collaborators, as well as unprecedented access to private family and company archives--including never-before-seen interviews, business documents, and Henson's private letters--Brian Jay Jones explores the creation of the Muppets, Henson's contributions to Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and his nearly ten year campaign to bring The Muppet Show to television. Jones provides the imaginative context for Henson's non-Muppet projects, including the richly imagined worlds of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth-as well as fascinating misfires like Henson's dream of opening an inflatable psychedelic nightclub or of staging an elaborate, all-puppet Broadway show. An uncommonly intimate portrait, Jim Henson captures all the facets of this American original: the master craftsman who revolutionized the presentation of puppets on television, the savvy businessman whose deal making prowess won him a reputation as "the new Walt Disney," and the creative team leader whose collaborative ethos earned him the undying loyalty of everyone who worked for him. Here also is insight into Henson's intensely private personal life: his Christian Science upbringing; his love of fast cars, high-stakes gambling, and expensive art; and his weakness for women. Though an optimist by nature, Henson was haunted by the notion that he would not have time to do all the things he wanted to do in life-a fear that his heartbreaking final hours would prove all too well-founded. An up-close look at the charmed life of a legend, Jim Henson gives the full measure to a man whose joyful genius transcended age, language, geography, and culture-and continues to beguile audiences worldwide.

30 review for Jim Henson: The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    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 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 it. Not just The Muppet Show, which we watched faithfully. Not just Sesame Street, where the Muppet segments were clearly the best. But I remember going to see The Dark Crystal when it debuted in theaters, and I remember it being a family Event. Terrifying and wonderful, I daydreamed of being a Gelfling. Dialogue from that movie is still in my family's lexicon. Labyrinth remains one of my all time favorite movies, as does The Dark Crystal, as well as The Muppet Christmas Carol. My mom took us to see the strange and disturbing Dreamchild because it had creatures by the Creature Shop. I own every Muppet DVD, but also all the episode of The Storyteller, which were also TV viewing events in my house growing up. I've passed this love of Jim Henson and the Muppets on to my kids, and I'm lucky enough to be married to someone who loves them, too. So you can see that a biography of Jim Henson would be something that I would both be fascinated and repelled by. Looking at my reading history, I've realized that I generally read one major biography a year, and I almost do it like I'm taking medicine. I read biographies of people who fascinate me, or whose work I admire, but sometimes it's too much. What if he turns out to be a total douchebag, like Steve Jobs, or a tortured person sadly in need of therapy like John Lennon? Or slightly boring and not really as great as a few of my heroes have turned out to be? But I started seeing raves for the book, not only because of Jones' writing (which is totally engaging), but also because the subject of this biography really was "both a genius and a really nice guy" according to one magazine review. So I took the plunge. Fantastic. I tore through this book, only stopping to tell my husband about some of the more awesome parts. Not only was Jim Henson a genius and a really nice guy who was delightful to read about, but everyone around him was interesting, and everything he did was totally fascinating, even his failures. He revolutionized TV. He revolutionized puppetry. He is responsible for not only some of my favorite movies and TV shows of all time, but is also behind pretty much all the best characters and skits from Sesame Street. The King of Eight he did himself, as well as the skit where two real kittens raid a dollhouse. Get this: it was his daughter's dollhouse, and he made it entirely himself! His interactions with other puppeteers, directors, and celebrities were, well, fascinating and illuminating. His philosophies about life, about families, children, and art, were beautiful. His family astounds me as well. For instance, Brian Henson developed the technique that was used to put a whole gang of Muppets on bicycles for a ride through Central Park in The Muppets Take Manhattan. Brian was sixteen at the time. One of his daughters became the VP of Warner Brothers on her thirtieth birthday. All of them turned out to be intelligent, gracious, and gifted adults, which speaks volumes about Jim and his wife Jane, and the kind of people they were. I would have loved to have known Jim Henson in person, but since I can't, the next best thing is this book. I got it from the library, but plan to buy a copy because this is just something I want to have in my house, for me and my husband and my kids. I'm about to go to Amazon and see if I can't send the Kindle copy (or perhaps just the cost) to my mom.

  2. 4 out of 5

    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 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 definitely a myth-builder of a biography, with messy personal details lightly jumped over and achievements set on high gloss. That said, I'm invested in the myth, and it's definitely an inspiring read for anyone wanting to create something different. This is your great American bootstraps story template, here, and it's fuzzy and anarchic and probably viral over your childhood. "In the early days of the Muppets, we had two endings," Jim said. "Either one creature ate the other, or both of them blew up...I've always been particular to things eating other things!"

  3. 5 out of 5

    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 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 to all the journalism courses I took back in the day, that make me prefer something written from an impartial point of view. This memoir wore me down, because it seemed like an unnecessarily wordy love letter to Jim Henson. Even his faults, for example his many instances of infidelity and his inability to discuss issues, including relationship issues, with anyone else, seemed to be brushed over. I don't really care to know all the sordid details of his affairs and materialism and what not, but I also don't think it should be presented as something that's acceptable. But, then again, those are my own personal morals being projected on something and someone else. I am usually a quick reader, and often finish a book a day, or at least two or three a week. I've been stuck on this particular one for over two weeks. I couldn't make it past the middle, and I dreaded having to pick it up and read it. Obviously not a healthy way to approach a memoir, especially not one that is a required read. I never plan on finishing this, and I'm fine with that. Instead, I'll leave it to the legions on Goodreads who seem to love it, and good for them. I'm just going to continue on with something that's more my speed, and hope that it erases the bad taste this work has left me. Side note: The only reason this isn't getting a single star rating, is because the writing itself wasn't terrible, it was just too dry and boring for me. I reserve single star ratings for books, like any and all from the Twilight series, that I loathe.

  4. 4 out of 5

    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 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 because I still love super heroes and giant robot battles. So sue me. The Muppets are what sticks. We danced to Labyrinth and David Bowie at my sisters wedding, and my brother and I played the entire Treasure Island sound track over and over on our way to Des Moines (we also realized we had all the same hand movements and fake voices for the songs), and my Dad sung us to sleep with the Rainbow Connection song. I was raised on Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Babies, and Muppets on Stage. I am fairly certain that my favorite book growing up was "There's a Monster at the end of the book!" which my parents read with appropriate approximations of Grover's voice. I grew up and watched Farscape, I think my dog is floppy-eared and brown because Rowlf made some sort of impression on me as a child, and basically, I've just never gotten over the Muppets. And we shouldn't get over the Muppets. They taught us to appreciate diversity and creativity, to value one another, to be kind and encouraging, to appreciate ourselves, to appreciate this world we live in. Those are lessons that we should hang out to, and its everything that Jim Henson wanted to teach us. He used television very purposefully to be both entertaining and positive, and god I think we could bring some of the back. I'm usually somewhat nervous to read biographies about someone- I'm always afraid that they'll turn out to have been really awful. It always seems like you have to be awful and ruthless to lead, to be remembered, to actually manage to achieve anything. But you dont, and Jim Henson proves it. Turns out he was a pretty genuinely nice guy, and that even years after his death people only have nice things to say about him. They miss him terribly, and they are effusive in their praise, and truth seems to ring in their voices. I don't think I could have worked for him, I just don't have the sort of energy he required, but its good to know that he never felt like he was working, he was having fun and doing something "good," something worthwhile. They were all having fun, and maybe thats why everything they made is so easy to appreciate. There were ups and downs and I think that the book covered them diligently and honestly. Jim had a few extramarital affairs but he was an utterly devoted father, he won an Emmy at 21 but couldn't understand why Labyrinth was a flop and was terribly hurt (dont worry Jim, I own it, I love it, I watch it all the time, LOTS of us do), he was an unfailing optimist and idealist with a head so in the clouds that sometimes he couldn't understand people, but we NEED people like that. He wasn't perfect, but he was excellent. Maybe I'm the wrong person to review this book. I feel like I'm too close to the subject. It was a great biography though, and wonderfully well-written in my opinion. Five years of research and interviews made this book seem deeply personal, like you are sitting in a room, on the floor, listening to Frank Oz and Jane and Jerry Juhl all talk about this man. You just dont seem very far removed from the conversation, and its very engaging. Sometimes its hard to keep track of the timeline because Jim always had ten projects going on at once, he was already on the next thing, but I suppose it felt very much like chaos in real life too. I dont think that there is much the author could have done about that. I also dont feel like the author interjected too much, except in closing, and it was a beautiful sending-off. Overall I would highly recommend this book. So I'd like to send you off with some words from Jim, words I'm going to try and hold on to this week and the weeks to follow, maybe try to channel this extraordinary person a bit more in life and not let things stop my own creativity or my positive energy: Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. Its a good life, enjoy it." Here they are! Youtube links that correspond with specific mentions in the book. Purina Rowlf Commericial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1Ium... Watkins and Wilkins Coffee Commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVewx... Rowlf on the Jimmy Dean Show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-dHo... Visual Thinking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFbyu... Rainbow Connection "Opening Credits" Muppet Movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSFLZ... The Muppet Movie Ending that required a gajillion puppeteers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn49H... Best of the Muppet Show (lets be honest, it was all great) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSQDz...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kerri Duff

    This is a brilliant biography of a fascinating man. I was familiar with a lot of Jim Henson's creations of course, but I really knew very little about his life. I found this book very compelling, informative and easy to read. I don't think it's a spoiler of any kind to say you follow Jim Henson to the end of his life and I found myself missing him terribly once we reached his death. However his legacy is incredible and Brian Jay Jones did a wonderful job capturing that.

  6. 5 out of 5

    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 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 still hum the opening theme to Sesame Street and The Muppet show. To this day if we are confronted with an odd assortment of items one, two of all three of us will break out into “One of These Things is Not Like the Other”. For all that I owe Mr. Henson a debt of gratitude. * Nothing to do with this book but honorable mention must go The Elephant Show and Skinnamarink as far as memorable, hummable theme songs from children’s shows go. Having read an excellent book a while back called “Street Gang” by Michael Davis describing the beginnings and the theories behind children’s educational programming but only scraping the surface of Mr. Henson’s life, when I came across this title I knew I had to read it. This book does more than scrape the surface. Mr. Jones’ research is diligent. He gives us a glimpse into both Mr. Henson’s heritage and his life starting with his great-grandparents right through to his untimely death. Mr. Jones describes Mr. Henson’s life, his genius, his compulsions and his family life and he does so admirably yet without sugar coating anything. He shares Mr. Henson’s flaws, foibles and faults along with everything else and that is what made this book such an exceptionally good biography. I find biographies are usually either “tell-alls” or works of gushing admiration. This one is an enjoyable journey through Mr. Henson’s life and career. I even learned a few things I didn’t know along the way. By the end of this book I liked Jim Henson. When it came time to read about his death and funeral it was written with so much respect and poignancy that I am not ashamed to say I had to reach for the tissue box several times. If you can still hum the theme song to Sesame Street, ever owned a Kermit puppet, know who Fozzie Bear is, remember the “hand scene” from The Labyrinth or enjoyed The Dark Crystal – you HAVE TO read this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~

    How can you not love this guy?! Jim Henson was a big part of my childhood from The Muppet movies, The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and so much more! This book was so much fun reading about his life and how it ended so tragically.

  8. 5 out of 5

    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 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 master worked. Then it goes back to the time before there was a Jim Henson, describing his family that he would be born into. At first you might wonder why that's important but the Henson family played a big role in making Jim Henson the man he became. Without the Henson family, Jim would never have created his first Muppet. This biography is engaging and detailed. It's a lot to read but you may find that it's not enough. I couldn't get enough of the wonderful anecdotes told by family and friends. So many very personal stories about the man who gave the world so much joy. He became more human without losing the sparkle. I highly recommend Jim Henson: The Biography to anyone who is a fan of his work, even casually. Like every single Jim Henson creation, this book will make you feel even closer to Jim Henson as if he's welcoming you into his family. A great book on a wonderful man.

  9. 5 out of 5

    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, 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, and screenings of rare and early films such as the ad reel. So, I thought that I knew a lot about Jim Henson. But when I started reading this biography, I realized how much I didn't know. This biography includes an exhaustive and impressive array of interviews of people that knew Jim really well, or which he made a strong impression on even in passing, dating back to childhood. For example, I had no idea that Jim had started working in television at the age of 17, or how many shows that he worked on or pitched before the Muppet show. To me, it was particularly rewarding to gain a better understanding of how crucial it was for him to meet people at a point in his career where he wasn't certain whether he wanted to continue with Muppets, that had mastered the craft of puppetry, and how deep his appreciation for the craft was, and how much he innovated within the art form. It is also incredibly satisfying to read about how his success came about partially by good timing, partially by having an incredible work ethic, and partially by being generous enough in spirit to work with an amazingly talented array of collaborators, which to me is both a realistic and inspiring model for growing as an artist. This is, in some respects, a daunting book - it's 400 plus pages are densely packed, but an incredibly rewarding one. Bravo to Brian Jay Jones on the depth of his research, and to all of the people Jim touched who shared their parts of his story.

  10. 4 out of 5

    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 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 photos add substantially to the overall cost of a book, I would’ve loved to see some color pictures of the Muppets. Needless to say, they were mentioned often, and it would’ve been nice to have some visuals to go along with the text. Finally, I would also have liked to know more about Jane Henson (Jim’s wife) and her role in the making of the Muppets, partial ownership of the company, and mothering of their five children. I know this was a biography of Jim Henson, not Jane, but I got the feeling a lot went on between them that was not expressly stated. Perhaps this was done out of respect for Jim, and perhaps for family members who (understandably) didn’t want him portrayed in a negative light. But if you're looking for inspiration on how to create a (mostly) authentic life, this biography is a great place to start. Jim Henson had the kind of existence we should all strive for--one filled with love, humor, and kindness.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I can’t say I recommend this. For a book with two Muppets on the cover, they spend an awful lot of time talking about how Henson didn't want to be either a puppeteer or The Muppet Guy. It also presents Dark Crystal and Labyrinth as being complete failures. There’s a throwaway comment in the epilogue that points to the movies finding a greater audience in video. The pacing is painfully slow. A little less of the summarizing of the daily activities logged in the personal diary would help the flow a I can’t say I recommend this. For a book with two Muppets on the cover, they spend an awful lot of time talking about how Henson didn't want to be either a puppeteer or The Muppet Guy. It also presents Dark Crystal and Labyrinth as being complete failures. There’s a throwaway comment in the epilogue that points to the movies finding a greater audience in video. The pacing is painfully slow. A little less of the summarizing of the daily activities logged in the personal diary would help the flow a lot. 30% into the book and it finally hits Sesame Street. Holy crap this has bloat that would make Stephen King call for an editor. It would benefit from a diet that kills a third or more of the darlings. Don't tell me how someone feels, and then present a quote from that person that says the same thing you just told me. The narrative oddly glosses over Henson’s infelicities but revels in a blow-by-blow of his last hours, all the way to the gore spattered death rattle. On the plus side, it's GREAT to fall asleep to.

  12. 5 out of 5

    BHodges

    A mostly-admiring account that doesn't entirely shy away from some of the more unflattering elements of Henson's life. The NYT reviewer said it best; it's "an exhaustive work that is never exhausting." Jones has woven together a ton of information but manages to keep the story moving along month by month without very much psychologizing. And I may or may not have teared up at the end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    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 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 get a well-rounded, well-researched look at who this man was. The author had complete cooperation from Henson's family and friends, and had access to many of his personal effects and papers. The book starts with how Henson's parents met and settled in Mississippi, tracing Henson's creativity back to a relative in the Civil War, and shows how Henson was raised a kind and patient man with Christian Scientist roots. There was always laughter in their house. His parents were hard workers too so it's easy to see where Henson got his determination. You also learn where he got his creativity from - he was a very imaginative child and was encouraged by his grandmother. This book is pretty much a linear timeline of Henson's life, which chapters devoted to Sesame Street, Sam and Friends, The Muppet Show, each Muppet movie, The Dark Crystal, etc. It definitely takes patience to read it. But there are some real gems sprinkled throughout the text. In the first chapter, we learn The Wizard of Oz was his favorite movie (it came out when he was just three), but he was more afraid of the MGM lion roaring at the start of the movie. We also get behind-the-scene glimpses of the Muppets and Sesame Street that are noteworthy, like reading how all the sets were elevated six feet off the ground so the puppeteers could stand up while operating the Muppets. Or how the director would yell "Blue Sky!" when a child came on the set to alert adults to watch their language (though Henson hardly ever said a cuss word). We learn how Kermit was born and got his name. Or that the Muppets partly got their name from a TV listing that was badly copy-edited. I loved the personal glimpse into his early professional relationship with Jane when they were doing "Sam and Friends." I especially liked the chapter about how young Jim loved TV and just wanted to work in television back in the early 1950s. He was more interested in being artistic and working on set design or publicity. He excelled in college in theater doing set design and doing publicity artwork. He learned puppetry by checking two books out at the library in order to audition for a TV show looking to hire a puppeteer, and of course the rest is history though Jim kept trying to get out of puppets and into show design. And of course, there's a personal glimpse into Henson's life. We learn about the creation of our beloved Muppet characters. We find out Henson loved women, and loved to collect art and fast cars. You'll learn about his early work with the Muppets on SNL and how he strived to get his characters their own show, and obviously succeeded. And then of course there's quite a bit about the eventual sale of the franchise to Disney and also Henson's untimely death which happened on the day the sale was to be final. The man really was a creative genius who worked very hard for his small company, and in the end, that's all he wanted to do was be creative, be an artist. Henson is very much the man I expected he was. My one problem with reading bios is whether or not I trust the author, and I must say I completely have faith in Brian Jay Jones' work here. It is well written, entertaining, and thorough. I also love a book that has me researching things on my own - I went to YouTube numerous times to watch old Muppet segments that are mentioned in the book and even bought the first Muppet movie on BluRay. For those expecting more pictures or more concise background information related to the Muppet characters themselves, there are other better books on the market. For those who want to get to know the man behind them, this bio is for you!

  14. 5 out of 5

    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 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, as ascribed to by these insiders, are fascinating. First, a word of warning. This is not a frothy and speedy read. Jones is a ponderous writer who is overly generous with facts about people, places, and things. There were times I had to set the book aside and tend to my personal needs and family responsibilities that stacked up due to inattention. It seems that the author explored every minute of every day of over fifty years of Henson’s life. It seems as if every person he ever encountered is mentioned. Every puppeteer who ever put a hand up a Muppet’s shirt is appraised. Every trip, place of residence, workshop, film studio, vacation jaunt, and business deal—-in short, every event in Henson’s life—-is carefully detailed. But don’t let the fear of a boring epic deter you from opening this book. Jones has a remarkable ability to gather all this information, assemble it with clarity and readability, and whisk the reader through its crowded corridors to the shining conclusion of a virtuoso's life. You will marvel at Henson’s ability to gather together his ideas and turn them into thousands of projects, technical conceptions, costumes, decorations, and oddball characters, bringing them into the singular focus of his Muppet enterprise. Henson’s concept of the performer physically being a part of the puppet, performing the movements and the puppet’s voice while remaining out of the audience’s sight, although not original, was so innovative, well performed, and entertaining that the Muppets’ fame skyrocketed. Most of the time the puppeteers were forced to crawl around under elevated stages with their arms extended overhead with a puppet attached. At times two or three performers were entangled with each other watching a television monitor, while they manipulated different parts of the Muppet’s body in perfect unison as they produced the physical act and voice being projected. Henson himself was submerged in a watertight chamber for over three hours, day after day, breathing in an oxygenated atmosphere, with his arms projecting up through watertight sleeves making Kermit look real as he sat and sang while sitting on a log in the middle of a pond. By the way, Henson was also doing the singing. Personally, Henson was regarded as a “saint” by many. He was revered by both his employees and his competitors. He was able to keep his mind wrapped around the chaos of his many complicated projects while keeping the silliness he loved to resonate in his projects. He had his flaws but they were largely minimized because of his milieu. I found this magnetism to be a big part of his story. Go to the author’s website for some wonderful videos of many Muppet performances. I viewed them all and remembered why I elbowed everyone out of the way when the Muppets were on television. I recommend this book to all those who were captivated by the wonderful Muppets and who want to know about an amazing man. Schuyler T Wallace

  15. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    This book is a struggle. It is SO slow...and detailed...and long. The audio book version doesn't help. The narrator has a mild gentle cadence that adds to the slow factor. The details are exacting...Jim wears an orange tie and uses a number 2 pencil and sits in an Eames Chair. Just kidding...almost. And the author's hero-worship wears very thin. There's a giant "he should be right, even though he isn't" excuse for most all of Jim's failures. And there are some major contradictions that just don' This book is a struggle. It is SO slow...and detailed...and long. The audio book version doesn't help. The narrator has a mild gentle cadence that adds to the slow factor. The details are exacting...Jim wears an orange tie and uses a number 2 pencil and sits in an Eames Chair. Just kidding...almost. And the author's hero-worship wears very thin. There's a giant "he should be right, even though he isn't" excuse for most all of Jim's failures. And there are some major contradictions that just don't fit the author's narrative. The Sesame Street muppets were a non-negotiable item for any sale as mentioned countless times. Yet later, in just two sentences or so, it's said that the rights were sold to a German company. Jim is described as not wanting to deal with business issues, yet it's mentioned that he put his name in to lead the Disney Company. He wanted ownership of his productions, yet let his namesake The Jim Henson Show stagger off-course. He avoided conflict, yet strung along a wife and many girlfriends at the same time. The muppets brought Jim his finest achievements, yet he didn't fully embrace their success and sought other projects. These contradictions draw your attention because the book glides over them. The chronology of the story is exceedingly well-researched and solid. The narrator is good at adding voices and character. It's the glossy image of everything that muddles the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    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 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 into business - by having his puppets lip synch to popular songs. So Becky, Angie and Susan - I don't think he would have minded our library puppets lip synching to music. I have no doubt in my mind he would have thought it was wonderful. :-)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christa

    Jim Henson lived an incredible life, and I was sobbing by the end of the book because of how loved he was by those closest to him. This book was an amazing testament to his creativity and generosity with all he contributed to the world with Sesame Street and The Muppets and his creature workshop, and I loved that the audiobook had VOICES FOR THE MUPPETS. It was really great to learn about Jim Henson himself, and he seemed like someone that made the world a better place with his calm zen personal Jim Henson lived an incredible life, and I was sobbing by the end of the book because of how loved he was by those closest to him. This book was an amazing testament to his creativity and generosity with all he contributed to the world with Sesame Street and The Muppets and his creature workshop, and I loved that the audiobook had VOICES FOR THE MUPPETS. It was really great to learn about Jim Henson himself, and he seemed like someone that made the world a better place with his calm zen personality, even without all the creativity he was known for. There should be more people as loving and giving as Jim Henson was; the world would be a better place.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dollywog

    The book was impeccablly thorough and revealing. It's a 5 star book... But I hardly enjoyed it at all. I found it very interesting, but I'd rather that I never read it. Sometimes knowing too much about your heroes makes them into real people and the imagined version you had of them gets shattered.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bettie☯

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  20. 4 out of 5

    Misha

    I finished this crying and blowing my nose copiously in a coffee shop. Henson's work meant so much to me throughout my life. I was singularly obsessed with The Dark Crystal. But learning about what a creative, optimistic and caring man Henson truly was inspired me beyond words. A lovely biography of a creative genius. "Sometimes, said writer Jerry Juhl, Jim set that example by appreciating life's absurdities. 'Jim had a sense of humor that just sorted out life,' said Juhl. 'And, you know, too muc I finished this crying and blowing my nose copiously in a coffee shop. Henson's work meant so much to me throughout my life. I was singularly obsessed with The Dark Crystal. But learning about what a creative, optimistic and caring man Henson truly was inspired me beyond words. A lovely biography of a creative genius. "Sometimes, said writer Jerry Juhl, Jim set that example by appreciating life's absurdities. 'Jim had a sense of humor that just sorted out life,' said Juhl. 'And, you know, too much of life for most people is involved in picking what are really fairly petty things and turning them into deep tragedies and horrible melodramas. Jim always cut through that.' Even in business, 'he could integrate play into the process,' said Dave Goelz. 'As a parent, one of my goals is to see whether I can raise my children to survive in the world without losing that childlike innocence, trust, optimism, curiosity and decency. I am certain it is possible, because Jim was the living embodiment of it.'" (488) "Always, then, the work had to matter--because to Jim, the world mattered. 'I know it's easier to portray a world that's filled with cynicism and anger, where problems are solved with violence,' Jim once said. 'What's a whole lot tougher is to offer alternatives, to present other ways conflicts can be resolved, and to show that you can have a positive impact on your world. To do that, you have to put yourself out on a limb, take chances, and run the risk of being called a do-gooder.'" (490)

  21. 4 out of 5

    yh

    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 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 really wanted something that dug deep into his life. I waited a good two or three years for this to come out, and I'm pleased to report that it's a really phenomenal work. Every page in this book contains some new tidbit or quote about Jim Henson, from many of his closest colleagues and family members. Jones has done a fantastic job compiling the material that was out there, as well as interviewing the major players himself. The notes section in the back of the book is extensive and just goes to show how much care was put into this project. Jim Henson's life was mostly filled with long periods of work, then short, extravagant vacations. He loved what he did, and could never stand still, always working on a new project, even when he could rest on his laurels and ride out the success of his previous projects. As such, the book moves at a breakneck pace, jumping from project to project, but managing to convey an absurd amount of information about each one as it goes along. The stories of the creation of The Muppet Show as well as the beginnings of Fraggle Rock were specially meaningful for me, and while some of his projects were not very well received, Jones manages to make them interesting to read about, as Jim is such a fascinating person and the tidbits Jones presents are top-notch. Of course, Jim Henson's life had its sadder moments as well, and Jones covers those unflinchingly, detailing his marital and other personal issues in a tactful but frank way, and the second-to-last chapter about his illness and death was heartbreaking. After waiting so long for this book, and knowing it was about a figure who I admired so much, I couldn't imagine it letting me down. However, it really went above and beyond everything I hoped for. This really does feel like the definitive guide to the life and works of Jim Henson, and is filled with quotes and insights from the man himself and the people dearest to him. Because Jones always ensures that the focus is on Jim, the book can't help but exude the sense of joy and optimism that Jim exuded throughout his entire life, which really is the highest praise I can think of. If you have any interest in Jim Henson's life or his many entertainments, take a week or two out of your reading life and read this. It's a terrific biography about a terrific man, and it made me appreciate him in a way I didn't really think was possible.

  22. 5 out of 5

    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 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 found that the man behind the Muppets was for the most part kind of boring. Is this blasphemy or simply the failings of the author? Brian Jay Jones obviously did a ton of research and is a genuinely huge fan of Henson but the minute details included and the recording of rather mundane occurrences made it very difficult for me to get through this massive book, 600 pages! The first 2 chapters are especially dense and dry; do I need to know about his grandparents? Do I really care about his father's childhood or how his parents met? Do I need to know every house and car that Jim purchased, or thought about buying? Also, the biography was anything but objective, often Jones’ gushing was little more than sappy hero worship. He certainly skimmed over the darker portions and failings of Jim Henson. He never seemed able to really acknowledge fault or he provided excuses, saying that’s just Jim for you, boys will be boys. A part of Jim’s life that I found particularly difficult to deal with was the treatment of his wife and the fact that he had several affairs and dated many women at once. Not much detail is given to this aspect of Jim’s life as the author seems to think that this is merely a side effect of Jim’s loving idealism. I would have preferred a more honest look at the facts. It seems that anything that could be controversial was heavily minimalized. However, with that being said there were many passages that were incredibly powerful and interesting. I loved seeing the Muppets come together and enjoyed the behind the scenes information. Undoubtedly the passage of this book that will stay with me forever is the account of the memorial service for Jim after his passing. This was truly written beautifully and I felt like I was sitting in the pew of the Cathedral along with the other mourners. I was balling. Overall, an amazingly detailed account of Jim Henson, the business man, and his company but very little information about his family and wife. After reading, you are gifted with a higher level of gratitude for the man who created icons. It is difficult to get through but rewarding.

  23. 5 out of 5

    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 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 one kind of creative work to another. Suddenly--he died. No one could believe it. Jones' biography abounds with details like the challenges of recording scenes with Muppets on locations away from the studio, or re-designing a puppet's eyes so she looks softer, or re-creating a whole character, like one pig (just like many others in the batch) who becomes Miss Piggy. Stories within stories. Fascinating. You bring your own memories to this book, and you find yourself saying, "I remember when...."

  24. 4 out of 5

    BookDrunkard

    This was a wonderfully loving tribute to a magnificent puppeteer, creator, director, and innovative man. If you have a small love for his work or are still a little in awe of his life and work - I highly recommend this book! It starts off a little slow when describing his childhood, but, once they get into his career it really picks up and becomes a delightful read!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brendan Linwood

    This is an incredible, intimate look into the mind of one of the greatest creators of the last century. Jim Henson has always been a hero of mine - one of the last true originals, who balanced great art with immense heart. Jones has done an amazing, exhaustive job bringing the reader behind the scenes of the magic of the Muppets, and the mind of their genius creator. I savoured this book for 5 months, and would have kept reading for 5 more.

  26. 5 out of 5

    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 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 than that, this book made me feel as if I knew Jim Henson - personally - and I was there every step of the way through his life. Brian Jay Jones has written perhaps one of the best biographies I have ever read. It was so visual, so heartfelt and captivating that a part of me itched to just throw it at a movie executive and demand for it to be filmed... something. I was also pleased to know that the Jim Henson that I knew and loved as a child is exactly how I thought him to be. He was kind, thoughtful, quiet, attentive and had big dreams and a soft heart. So many stories about how he tried to make people happy, how he wanted to make things a better place for everyone involved. He was a thoughtful man who, in terms of being a businessman, thought about the people instead of the money he made. The chapter that touched me a bit was seeing how Jim was meshing alongside the Disney name. Despite all the bull-shit that was going on with the merger, he would have been a fantastic addition to the Disney world. Everyone loved listening to the ideas he had to share and they wanted to please him with making his muppet world come to life. I'm glad we got MuppetVision 3D, and I'm glad it's still there--unchanged--today. The end of the book was a very difficult portion to read. To this day, Jim Henson's death makes me cry. To read an entire chapter dedicated to his death, day by day, it was so difficult. You honestly felt as helpless as everyone involved, watching someone who you'd never expect to pass pass before your eyes. I wanted to literally thrust myself into the book and drive Jim to the hospital. That's how desperate I was, something to save him from dying. This book is one of the best books to round out the end of 2013. It was made with love and appreciation. I want to thank all that was involved, including the author, for lending their voices to a wonderful man and allowing me to be part of their lives for a read. I wish I knew Jim, this book made me feel as if for a moment, I did.

  27. 5 out of 5

    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 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 life and work from the wrong angle, but I got bored much more often than I expected to. Jones writes about every detail of Henson's life with little regard for what details are interesting and what are somewhat bland. He waxes philosophical on Jim's rather generic childhood for nearly a hundred pages and spends nearly as much time writing about how who he hires to decorate his house as he does about much more interesting elements such as Henson's disagreements with Roald Dahl. I think the problem is he likes Jim and the Henson family (both literal and professional) so much that he's not really as interested in exploring Jim's complexities and contradictions as he is praising and celebrating him. Which is fine, it's just that it gets a little dull.The book becomes a chronicle rather than a story, and the peaks and valleys that should be there eventually all get evened out and flattened. Which is not to say there's not great stuff here. Jones clearly drives home several aspects of the "What made Henson tick" question: his love of creativity, his desire for positivity, the pleasure he took in work. All of those elements are explored--and explored well--at several points throughout the book. And though the book could and should have had more pictures (Jim was, after all, a visual storyteller), reading the biography was still fun in that it drove me to the Internet repeatedly to look up film clips (like Henson's short film "Time Piece" on YouTube) or to find scenes with individual Muppets. And it also made me wish I had some Muppet movies/tv episodes in my own collection! In the end, the book isn't bad, it's just not as dynamic or compelling as it should have been, given the creative genius at its heart.

  28. 4 out of 5

    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 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 bibliographic sources -- it's been painstakingly researched, and the narrative occasionally does get bogged down in details. This is the kind of biography that takes a long time to read because it's less story and more facts, if that makes any sense. That's by no means a dig. I was completely absorbed by this book and I think any Muppet fan would find it equally engaging. The only thing that I could quibble about is the lack of focus on his personal life. We get so much detail about the creation of the Muppets and the cultivation of his professional relationships and how he struggled with running a business -- but very little about his life as a husband and a father. I suppose part of that is due to the fact that he, to some extent, prioritized his work over personal matters. Indeed, it's acknowledged that this is what led to the disintegration of his marriage. I just would have liked a little more insight. I still very, very much recommend this book. If you can get through the last fifty pages without crying, then I'm not sure we can be friends. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go watch a bunch of Muppet clips on YouTube.

  29. 5 out of 5

    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 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 away with a new appreciation for Jim Henson's drive, creativity and artistic vision. Many of his ideas were revolutionary, and it's interesting to see how some of them have developed since his passing. The book also touched the surface of some of his failing, which were hard to read about in someone I've always had a lot of respect for. It's fair to say that my estimation of his work only grew after reading the book, while my estimation of his character did fall a bit. For all the tidbits I gained about his process and work, after finishing the book I almost wish I hadn't read it- I'll never again be able to put him up on quite the same pedestal. Reading the chapter on his death and funeral brought all of the emotions back. I can't remember the last time I cried while reading a biography, but this one brought me to tears. Not just watery eyes- the full on sobbing. A salute to all puppeteers, but mostly Jim Henson.

  30. 4 out of 5

    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 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 fledgling-puppeteer to the genius director, creator, and performer. You will be with him at his highest highs of finally making a Muppet TV show, and you'll feel his despair at his lowest lows of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth not connecting with audiences as much as they did for Jim. I laughed out loud at times and cried big, ugly sobs at the end. My favorite parts were learning the origins of some of the best Muppets like the Swedish Chef and how Gonzo was rescued out of obscurity. With wonderful pictures and pages of insight from Jim's family and friends, this book might be the closest thing in print to knowing Jim the man. I hope that wherever he is, he knows that the world misses him a whole lot. Or at least I do.

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