I am Jen Henson is another wonderful book in the series of Ordinary People Change the World. This series celebrates how ordinary people achieve extraordinary achievements. Other books in this series that I have reviewed are I am Helen Keller, I am Lucille Ball, I am Martin Luther King Jr., I am Albert Einstein and I am Abraham Lincoln.
As a child who grew up in the 80’s, I loved watching Sesame Street and the Muppets. This book doesn’t just give me the opportunity to reminisce, but also gives me a tool to teach my own children about Jim Henson. I also learned many things about Jim Henson that I never know such as his history as a puppetter and how he got started as a performer. Jim grew up in Mississippi with the support of his family and close relationship with his grandparents who always encouraged and inspired him. As a young boy, Jim loved going to the movies and then recreating the scenes with his friends using homemade props and costumes. He was always a performer at heart and knew that he wanted to make it his life work to entertain an audience. He was inspired by entertainers such as Edgar Bergen, the vertriloquist and other comedians like Sid Caeser, Milton Berle and Jack Benny on television. He believed these entertainers’s work was “magic” and “seemed impossible”. He was inspired by the art of puppetry and wanted to spend his life entertaining others.
How did he become famous? Was it easy? No! Jim got rejected many times but never gave up. He worked hard and spent many years creating different puppets that could be more expressive and unique. As he developed these puppets, two tv producers gave him the opportunity of a lifetime. This opportunity was to be part of Sesame Street, which aired on November 10, 1969. Sesame Stret was different because it helped children learn and brought was one of the first shows to have kids of different races playing and learning together. With this smash hit as a platform, The Muppet Show premiered in 1979 and was watched by 235 million people per week at it’s peak.
Are you looking for extended activities for the series, Ordinary People Change the World? Check out these activities here.
Language and Learning Tips: Take this opportunity to teach your children about Jim Henson. As you are reading the book, pause at some important key words and define them. Every few pages or so, encourage your child to answer a question or two or ask one themselves. This helps keep a child on task and ensures that they are listening and understanding the content as you reading it. If your child has trouble answering questions, reread parts of the story and read the book over the course of a couple of days. There is a lot of information to be learned from this book!
Check out this video Sam and Friends which was one of Jim’s first show in the 60’s…
Do you want to learn more about Jim Henson? Check out this one hour special about Jim and The Muppets…