I am Jim Henson, by Brad Meltzer. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. Dial Books for Young Readers. 40 pages. Hardcover $14.99.
I often realize that it is more difficult to review a short book than a long book. Such is the case with a fine children’s book like the latest in Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World series. Earlier titles in the series have include child-friendly biographies of Amelia Earhart, Jackie Robinson, Lucille Ball, and Martin Luther King. These inspirational narratives written for children from 5-8 years old invite youngsters to dream bigger and to pursue their dreams energetically.
Florida author Meltzer gives a voice to Jim Henson as if Henson was writing a memoir. He offers characterizing details of Henson’s youth: drawing birds, enjoying family jokes and the laughter they provoked, going to the movies with friends and then re-enacting the movies with their own props and costumes. His grandmother got him involved in art projects.
Early on, Henson had a propensity for creating monsters who were sort of laughable.
He loved performance and a degree of disguise.
What may have seemed like frivolous indulgences were encouraged, allowing Henson to find his way to a notable career in television and movies. One influence was Edgar Bergen, a ventriloquist whose invention Charlie McCarthy seemed human to young Henson.
As a teenager and young adult, Henson had early experiences in local television that set him on the road to universal acclaim. This show was “Sam and Friends,” in which his highly expressive Muppets first came alive. Jim Henson’s imagination was the great gift he continued to develop.
The full flourishing of the Muppets, through “The Muppet Show” and “Sesame Street,” required teamwork: writers, actors, puppet builders, and more. But the key ingredient that allowed imagination to become fully realized was practice.
It’s not enough, Mr. Meltzer tells his readers, to be a dreamer. The practice – the hard work – is as important as the dream. . . .
To read the full review, as it appears in the February 1, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the February 2 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly -I am Jim Henson