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The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers Hardcover – April 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1st edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375507817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375507816
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,849 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Those who grew up watching Big Bird probably never gave much thought to the person beneath the feathers. But Spinney's been inside Big Bird since Sesame Street's inception in 1969, and he takes enormous pride in this honor. "Big Bird has opened up new worlds to me," he writes, and he shares some of those worlds in this simple book. He tells how he got to Sesame Street (he was working on a television show, Bozo's Big Top, and met Jim Henson at a puppetry festival) and recounts his adventures as the bird, interspersing them with basic life lessons. Some work better than others: the chapter "Find Compassion" tells the pleasant tale of how, one winter night, Spinney helped an elderly man home; yet the chapter "Eat Your Veggies," concerning Spinney meeting various first ladies, is somewhat perplexing. Although the publisher files the book under "inspiration," it's just as much a book on the ins and outs of puppetry. Amid anecdotes on traveling to China as Big Bird and learning how to dance in costume, Spinney shares little-known facts about puppets in general and Big Bird in particular. (Most viewers probably don't know there are no eye holes in the Big Bird costume. The only way Spinney can see where he's going is by looking at a tiny television monitor inside the costume, which gives him a third-person view of his actions.) With original drawings of Big Bird and friends, this is a charming and uplifting book.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Spinney tells how he got to Sesame Street, and of the mostly sunny days that followed. The book is slathered with good-humored reminiscences and peppered with pencil drawings to punctuate the story of his more than 30 furry years. In spite of a cliched "if you can dream it, you can be it" theme, this title stands out as anecdotal instead of preachy, gimmicky, or cutesy. Readers who were fans of or even infrequent visitors to Sesame Street will be heartened that the puppeteer giving a voice to Big Bird is, in mirrorlike fashion, largely gentle and very grateful for his experiences with Jim Henson and family. From recollections of his boyhood-built puppet theater, his Bostonian debut playing characters on Bozo's Big Top, and his fortuitous meeting with the founder of the Muppets, Spinney's passion for puppets, TV, and performing is obvious. He talks about taking a sizable pay cut to do what he loves-give breath to the Bird and Oscar-and holding on to one's vision and being prepared when opportunity knocks. Teens on the brink of career decisions, and maybe compromise, will find the man inside the familiar suits insightful, and the stories, especially the escapades with Bob Hope in China, delightfully simple and thought provoking.
Karen Sokol, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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A very easy read too.
donny
The Wisdom of Big Bird is an easy-to-take book about how Sesame Street got started and how it is produced, all from the perspective of the man inside the bird.
takingadayoff
Forgive people, live a good life, and never forget to take time to share love.
Matthew Poremsky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Timothy D Calhoun on May 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I half saw Mr. Spinney's interview on TV the other morning and was very intrigued with the idea of the book. Having grown up (and actually recently watched a few episodes of) Sesame Street, I decided to buy the book to read on a business trip. With a title like "The Wisdom of Big Bird," many things came to my mind. I was really expecting a somewhat light-hearted "7 Habits"-type book with excerpts from past Sesame episodes explaining the philosophical ideals. This was not the case - Little did I know that Spinney (with the help of J. Milligan) would expertly tell his life with an "inside-view" as the world's best-known educational Muppet. With his tasteful reminisces of the late Henson & Mr. Hooper, Spinney brought back the memories of an era and provided me with an adult illustration of a world of pure innocence. The book provides a beautiful look at the beloved Bird and his soul. Thank you Caroll for taking your dreams and making them every child's reality!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The Wisdom of Big Bird is an easy-to-take book about how Sesame Street got started and how it is produced, all from the perspective of the man inside the bird. For instance, I learned that there are no eyeholes in the Big Bird suit, so Spinney has to use a mini-monitor to navigate. Spinney's story of how he met his wife (several times) was entertaining, and I loved the description of the Sesame Street trip to China,with an impromptu limo ride with Bob Hope.Even the drawings are well done, by Spinney himself. Recommended!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "theoneandonlyalison" on May 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book, which I have to admit I picked up because I adore the Muppets, and can't wait to read more. This book gave an initmate look at life under those comical and comforting bubble eyes. I laughed at the memories and even cried when Mr. Spinney discusses the life and death of both Jim Henson and Mr. Hooper. I enjoyed getting a unique, behind the scenes perspective on something that has had a major impact on my life. Thanks to Mr. Spinney for teaching compassion and that it is ok to be a little different and dream your own dream. The world is a better place with Big Bird, & Oscar.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Fred W Hood on September 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
During vacation with our daughter in Connecticut I even felt closer to Home of the Big Bird! The first of 7 new books hooked me by the cover picture and title... Even the intimate story of Caroll Spinney: "Playing Big Bird has been my job for half my lifetime. It is a fabulous career- more than I ever hoped for, yet everything I believed it could be. Going to work everyday is a joy. The people I work with are tremendously talented...to educate and inspire young children is extremely motivating."

"Jim Henson's office held an imposing mahogany table with carved lions for legs as his desk. Over the fireplace hung a majestic papermache`& wire moosehead looking down on us..." Caroll Spinney paints an intimate, friendly picture of gifted and creative genius of Jim Henson: "I pictured making Big Bird a large feathered creature-who is very funny and very silly. Oscar will be a purple Grouch, a furry creature that lives in a pile of litter and trash in the gutter."

When Bob Hope invited Big Bird and wife, Debra to go to China with his Show, he saw Big Bird for the first time. Pointing at the Bird, "Wow! Look at that!" Big Bird looked at Hope, and said, "I thought I had a funny-looking Beak!" Bob burst into great guffaws of laughter! Big Bird followed-up, "Gosh, I didn't know you'd be so Short!" Hope quickly summed-up his meeting with the Bird, "Let's open-up with those lines, they are funnier than our Stuff!"

Finishing my second reading of Big Bird, I was deeply moved by his quoting Emily Dickinson, "Hope is the thing with feathers."

Others like, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "I just can't Dance" and Flip Wilson. As Big Bird learned to dance by pretending, "I can count in-my-head and still dance!" A delight to both read and discuss with my grown children and grandchildren! Don't miss it!

Retired Chaplain, Fred W Hood
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hil-9 on January 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Big Bird is a wonderful, kind-hearted creature, because Caroll Spinney is a gentle, kind-hearted man. His uplifting memoirs about his life bringing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life and making them very real beings to millions of children and adults, alike, are truly beautiful. Caroll is a very effective writer and illustrator, alike, and his tales brought joy to me as I read every one of them. I was especially touched by his chapter on doing Big Bird in China with the little girl and the goodbye they had at the airport. I was equally moved by his inherrent love and genuine affection for the puppets around him, described best by his picking Ernie up off the floor and apologizing to him for Jim's having unceremoniously dropped him there. One of my favorite lines in the book was near the end when he talked about the new folks and new format; at one point he said, "Then came Elmo." Those of us classic Sesame Street purists understood that line on a molecular level! Most significant for me was one of the messages of wisdom Caroll so eloquently describes. He says that sometimes you realize that your life is exactly how you always wanted it to be. I read this and realized that for myself, that was absolutely true, and I hadn't realized it till just that moment. I am a huge Sesame Street fan, and I'm so proud that my son has become one, too (he's nuts about Elmo, but equally gaga over Big Bird in Journey to Ernie). And this easy read made me feel warm and nostalgic. I've always understood Big Bird, and now I understand him -- and Oscar, not to mention Caroll -- alot better. Thank you, Caroll, for sharing your life in feathers and grouchland and for writing this wonderful book that spoke to me so deeply.
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