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My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud Hardcover – September 5, 2006
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
From Publishers Weekly
It's hard to believe, but it's been more than 20 years since beloved preschooler icon Elmo made his debut on Sesame Street—in fact, Clash wasn't even the first puppeteer to try his hand at bringing the "baby monster" to life. It was Clash, though, who gave the character the high-pitched voice and distinctive laugh that quickly endeared him to young viewers and eventually led to his own spinoff series. When he writes about Elmo, in fact, he verges on describing the Muppet as if it possesses its own personality. Clash's working relationship with Elmo is used as a starting point to discuss basic themes like love, tolerance and courage, but it's the story of his life before meeting his furry partner that often holds the most interest. He talks with obvious affection about his childhood growing up in an African-American suburb of Baltimore, encouraged from a early age to follow his talent for designing and performing with puppets. Though generally upbeat, this is no sugar-coated tale; Clash describes his initial struggles to make a name for himself on other children's shows, and speaks frankly about the toll performing on Sesame Street took on his marriage. (Sept. 25)
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Praise for My Life as a Furry Red Monster:
“It should come as no surprise that the man behind America’s most beloved red furball is as wise, warm, witty, and wonderful as Elmo himself. My Life as a Furry Red Monster is an entertaining sneak peak at the life and times of one of the most endearing and enduring characters ever created.”
“I love Elmo and I love this book. What a cutie-patootie. Thanks, Kevin!”
“This delightful book illuminates a man’s journey from child to parent, student to teacher, puppeteer to Muppeteer, and reveals to us who our favorite red furry monster really is—a gifted, humane, empathetic entertainer named Kevin Clash. His book is a meditation on the things that really matter—to Elmo and to all of us.”
“In lively and wonderfully written prose, Kevin tells the story of how he came to be the most popular educator and entertainer of children in the country. His riveting tale weaves together the adventures, idealism, love, and optimism that Kevin has experienced both as himself and as a furry red monster.”
—Joan Ganz Cooney, cofounder of Sesame Workshop and creator of Sesame Street
“Kevin has given life and breath to one of the most beloved characters in contemporary pop culture. His heart and soul radiate not only through Elmo, but up and down Sesame Street, through this book, and around the world. Not only is Kevin a brilliant artist, but he’s a fabulous human being as well.”
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Born and raised outside of Baltimore, Clash grew up building puppets out of his mother's slippers and the lining of his father's Sunday coats. By the age of 12, he was making money as a puppeteer, and by the time he was a teenager, he and his puppets were regulars on a local television show. By the time he was 19, he had established a career as a puppeteer with the Captain Kangaroo show and another one of my perennial favorites, The Great Space Coaster. Shortly thereafter, Clash found himself in the dream job of his youth as a Muppeteer with the great Jim Henson companies.
The birth of Elmo was one of those happy flukes. Fellow muppeteer Richard Hunt, who passed away in 1994, flung a random puppet, then known as `Baby Monster' to Clash and said, "Give it a voice, Clash." Since then, Elmo, as he was eventually renamed, has become a world-wide phenomenon.
In My Life as a Furry Red Monster, Clash and his co-author take a rather unusual approach to the re-telling of Clash's life story and the story behind perhaps the most popular puppet in television history. Instead of a chronological retelling of his life history, Clash opts instead to divide the chapters into life lessons such as tolerance, friends, and joy. Using stories from his early childhood, his life as Elmo, and from Elmo's point of view, Clash illustrates the importance of these aspects of life.
In some ways, this unique approach works. One can see, particularly in Clash's retelling of events that have happened to him as the voice of Elmo, how one small three and a half year old with a hyper-active imagination and an unlimited capacity to love has changed the world and improved it for so many.
This is not, however, a history lesson in Elmo and the Muppets. The facts and behind-the-scenes tidbits that are so tantalizing and fascinating to a reader such as myself are in very short supply, and entirely out of order. We read about the death of Muppet creator Jim Henson within the first paragraph. We never really learn anything in-depth about Clash's induction into the Muppet hall-of-fame or how he progressed from muppeteer-in-training to director, producer, and muppeteer-in-training trainer.
The writing is very accessible and engaging; the voice, personal. However, it is difficult to follow the though path of Clash and his co-writer due to some very unusual stream-of-consciousness thought paths that have Clash in one paragraph recounting his childhood, the next paragraph preaching about a topic, and then immediately back to the Sesame Street studios. It's a short work, coming in at just over 200 half-sized pages, and when all is said and done, I felt rather unfulfilled by my experience.
I also had a small complaint about the form factor of the book. Instead of being a standard size, the book was printed in an unusual 6.7" x 5.9" form factor, which makes holding the book open with one hand a difficult process. I found my hand cramping after just a few minutes holding the book open.
Clash does do one job well, however, and that's relating Elmo's experiences to those faced by adults and the world in general. Clash relates particularly touching experiences, including the introduction of Elmo to a group of small school children in the newly apartheid-free South Africa in preparation for the release of a South African version of Sesame Street and his experiences in New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It's easy to see how, in Elmo's life, the ability to distribute love freely has resulted in love being returned to him ten-fold--and the difference that has made in the lives of countless children and adults.
Toward the end of the book, Clash writes
"We go to school to learn--from out instructors, from our books, from each other. And at some point, we begin to listen to another teacher: our dreams. We think about what could be, what might happen once we're all grown up, what we might be able to do without our budding talents or our latest interests. Dreams are fragile things, but when they've been bolstered by the support of parents and teachers, and reinforced with early success, they can withstand the skeptics and take flight."
This, perhaps more than any other statement, defines what this book is about. Though light on the "literature," history, and behind-the-scenes tidbits, My Life As A Furry Red Monster is all about the quest of a furry, red, three-and-a-half year old monster to make the world a better place, one hug and one laugh at a time.
Most recent customer reviews
Even though i am obviously not a parent or anything, it was a well written autobiography. I highhly recomend if you need tips in your life