Jim Henson: The Biography

Ballantine. Sept. 2013. 592p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780345526113. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780345526137. PERFORMING ARTS
Jones chronicles Jim Henson's life, starting with a look at how Henson's teenage fascination with the television industry in the early 1950s propelled him into an enduring journey through the art of puppetry, and on a larger scale, a venue to share his love, imagination, and humor with the world. In 1955, he created local TV segments with his wife, Jane Nebal, which showcased their unique puppets and comedic sense that was partial to things being eaten or blown up. The first of Henson's many television commercials, in which several of the Muppet characters were developed, ran in 1957. Attending Puppeteers of America conventions, Henson and Nebal met future collaborators including Frank Oz, who would go on to become half of what many consider to be one of the great comedic duos: Bert and Ernie. All the while, Henson created and ran a company built on teamwork, laughter, and abundant creativity. His life was a steady stream of projects including Sesame Street, the first season of Saturday Night Live, The Muppet Show, and The Muppet Movie.
VERDICT Jones's (Washington Irving) biography, which draws on interviews with Henson's family, friends, and colleagues as well as company and family archives, brings to light a spirit of love, warmth, wit, and so much more. It makes an enjoyable companion to Karen Falk's Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal. [See Prepub Alert, 4/1/13; see Q&A with the author on p. 72.]

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