Sunday, July 09, 2017

I am Jim Henson

I am Jim Henson. Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I am Jim Henson. Oh, good. You're here. What's the fun of a story if you don't have anyone to share it with?

Premise/plot: I am Jim Henson is a picture book biography of Jim Henson. It begins in his childhood where readers learn that he loves laughing and playing pretend. He also loves "kooky" words. By the time he was a young teenager, Jim knew one thing: he wanted--he needed--to work in television. The rest of the book follows that dream. The book keeps things big picture, at least in terms of text. The details are found mainly--if not exclusively--in the illustrations.
In my life, I loved to create. But the secret behind my best creations wasn't a strong hand, or a catchy song, or even a funny voice. It was a simple idea: There's good in all of us. Sure, we're all different. Some of us have beards, or no hair, or blue fur, or green flippers. But goodness lives within each of us. That's an idea that should never get old. Believe in the good of the world. Create something new. Share what you love. And find others who believe in those favorite things you dream about.
My thoughts: It had me at hello. It opens with Statler and Waldorf talking.
"I like the book fine so far." "It hasn't started yet." "That's what I like about it." 
I also loved it start to finish. It ends with Animal being Animal!
I like that the book provides some context for understanding his life. Jim spent his childhood listening to the radio, going to movies, acting out and pretending with his friends. He was a teenager before he saw a television. Every day was full of opportunities to create, to imagine, to pretend, to invite others into your world. There's a definite sense of WONDER. How different from the modern screen-filled world that children are born into now. A world were you don't seek to create necessarily but to be entertained. A world that you don't find wondrous and magical--at least not as is.

But what I really loved are the layers of embedded memory. Here's where adult readers are likely to differ greatly from young children. The illustrator is inviting you, the adult reader, to walk down memory lane and soak up all the happiness.

Four pages are dedicated to Sesame Street. (Five if you count the page showing the conversation about a new concept for a children's show.) The illustrations don't cover any particular year or even decade. (Though young readers may ask where Elmo is. My favorite response, "he wasn't born yet.")

I love that this first spread includes MR. HOOPER, Big Bird, Prairie Dawn, Bob, Maria and Luis, the Count, Susan, Gordon, Barkley, Kermit, Grover, Bert and Ernie, Harry Monster, Cookie Monster, etc. The human characters don't particularly resemble those they're supposed to resemble. I used a best-guess approach. I will say this, the text gets a bit wrong. "Then we added a grouchy green monster named Osc--" He was NOT green to begin with!!!

The second spread uses smaller panels of illustration to give adult readers plenty to think about. Cookie singing C is for Cookie. The count singing about numbers. Ernie and his rubber duckie. The yip-yip martians, Bert's pigeons, Oscar in his trashcan. And best of all Kermit singing IT'S NOT EASY BEIN' GREEN.

There are also two spreads dedicated to The Muppet Show and/or The Muppet Movie. The second spread has the muppets singing some of the lyrics to the Finale/Magic Store.
Life's like a movie
Write your own ending
Keep believing
Keep pretending
We done just what we set out to do
And if that was all, it might just be enough. But the fun doesn't end there. There are several more pages wrapping up his oh-so-magical career. One seems to be set in a museum, and I find this page magical. There's an Emmet Otter poster. There are exhibits for the Mahna Mahna skit, Bert and Ernie, Kermit, and some of the Fraggle Rock gang.

One of the last pages shows Jim Henson SURROUNDED on all sides by his creations. I still don't know if I love it because of all the memories it brings back to me. OR if the text itself is lovable.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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