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Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street Paperback – October 27, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143116630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143116639
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Caroll Spinney (carollspinney.com), the voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch and winner of the Library of Congress's Living Legend Award, here narrates journalist Davis's gentle yet often surprising look at Sesame Street, the world's longest-running (40 years) and widest-reaching (120 countries) children's show. This will be a sure-fire hit in just about every library; highly recommended. [Includes a bonus interview with Davis and Spinney; the Viking hc was recommended "for all reference and browsing collections," LJ 12/08; visit www.streetgangbook.com for a bonus chapter profiling Roscoe Orman, who played Gordon on the show.—Ed.]—Joseph L. Carlson, Vandenberg Air Force Base Lib., Lompoc, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From The New Yorker

In this history of �Sesame Street,� Davis writes that when the show d�buted, in 1969, the goal of its creators was nothing short of righting �the inequities in our society� through the education of lower-class preschoolers. Such populist choices as an urban setting, a multiracial cast, and a catchy brand of �edutainment� reflected both the mood of the era (it should �jump and move fast and feel and sound like 1969,� a producer said) and painstaking research: a series of seminars held in the summer of 1968 was attended by developmental psychologists, television-industry insiders, and children�s authors and entertainers (Maurice Sendak endured boring sessions by making X-rated doodles; Jim Henson�s sandals and beard sparked fears that he was a Weatherman). The book�s strongest sections are culled from extensive interviews with Joan Ganz Cooney, who oversaw production for more than twenty years, but the narrative loses steam once the show hits the air.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Sesame Street was a show with great innovation.
Battleship
I'll conclude this now, as I can't wait to finish the rest of the book.
Mindy Markowitz
It wasn't a bad book, but I felt the title was a bit deceptive.
M M Frank

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 64 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The television show that can appeal to children and make parents feel like they are good parents and upright citizens for showing it to their kids, that is where the money lies, my friends. Growing up I was not a discerning television viewer. I watched Mr. Rogers, Reading Rainbow, Pinwheel, Today's Special, and a whole host of bad cartoons ranging from Space Ghost to that bizarre time traveling one that was basically just a half hour commercial for Laser Tag. There was maybe only one show amongst the batch that some part of my small reptilian brain recognized as better than the rest. I was an avid Sesame Street fan. I loved the show, the movies, the awful books they churned out (The Monster at the End of this Book excepted). Oddly, this love didn't fade as I grew up. I still have a strange fascination with the world it created and years ago I purchased Sesame Street Unpaved to sate some of my curiosity. Who were these people who created my mental childhood home? Who were the actors? The puppeteers? The writers? Unpaved didn't do much to answer any of that, aside from giving me choice nuggets like the fact that Bob was a teen singing sensation in Japan. So the time seems just about right for Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. Pulling in at a cool 406 pages, author Michael Davis has gone above and beyond the call of duty. And while I might have removed a chunk or two for the sake of svelting down the book as a whole, you will not and can not find a book that will better answer your questions about the birth of this most impressive of children's television shows.Read more ›
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Svitavsky on April 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I was in grad school, I signed up for a class called Death and Literature. The description sounded awesome and I was being a bit morbid. What it turned out to be was a philosophy class in literature class clothing, which resulted in me reading Heidegger for weeks at a time, only occasionally broken up by "She" or "Dracula." The few moments of awesomeness did not make up for the fact that I was dragged through "Being and Time." And that's what reading "Street Gang" is like.

This is not a complete history of Sesame Street. This is a slog through the personal histories of several of the key players who created Sesame Street: Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone, David Connell, Sam Gibbon, and Jim Henson. And when I saw histories, I mean you learn about their parents' upbringing, their upbringing, schooling, weird relationships, everything! This book is hyper-detailed, bogging it down. What isn't about family history is about how the show got funded, which has the potential to be interesting if we weren't forced to walk through every step of the process. And, of course, we do. You finally get to the genesis of the show and its characters and stories in Chapter 12... so if you want just that, skip to page 166.

To finish my complaint on the book's completeness, it skims a fair amount of the 1980s (compared to the detail of earlier chapters) and gives very little info on the mid-1990s and beyond. This is probably because management changed at the CTW and Davis does not fawn over these people. Elmo is the most-covered subject during this time period.

I'd also have to say that the writing structure is incredibly awkward.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By M M Frank on October 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
It wasn't a bad book, but I felt the title was a bit deceptive. A more honest sub-title would have been "The Foundations of Sesame Street," or "How a group of rag-tag geniuses created a television revolution." It covered a lot of what went on behind the scenes to make Sesame Street possible, including biographies of most of the major creators, and much of the history of children's television and television in general. There was at least an entire chapter devoted to Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody. Anyway, after about 180 pages of the book, the author finally gets far enough into the timeline to reach the actual production of the show. Then he spends a whopping three chapters on the show itself, some of the cast members and Muppeteers, and then that's about it. I'm not entirely sure what he intended to accomplish. It seemed like of the Muppeteers, the only people who were discussed in much detail at all were Jim Henson, Caroll Spinney (whose chapter was a welcome break from the tedium of television history), and Fran Brill. Richard Hunt and Kevin Clash got some ink, but Jerry Nelson, Marty Robinson, Steve Whitmire and the others were basically overlooked (and given Jerry Nelson's tenure and Steve Whitmire's taking over of Kermit and Ernie after Jim Henson's death, these were shocking omissions). That made me unhappy. Also a lot of the cast members received short shrift, and there was no discussion of Gordon #2 or #3 or why the switch was made. There was a fair amount of discussion about Northern Calloway (David) and his mental instability. I got the feeling from reading the book that the author started out great guns but ran out of steam by the time he got to the actual show itself.Read more ›
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