When I was pregnant and rifling through a box of childhood treasures, my heart skipped a beat as I spotted The Monster at the End of This Book. Oh, lovable, furry old Grover, you had me at “Do not turn another page!” These days, it’s my three-year-old who’s obsessed, and she has me chain-read the book to her so much that I almost regret unearthing it.
Monster is Sesame Street's best-selling book of all time, out of some 2,000 story-, novelty-, board- and activity-book titles. Though most people think of the stuffed animals and Tickle Me toys, books are a big part of the Sesame franchise. In fact, they were the first products to be licensed by the show, arriving the year after Sesame Street’s debut in November 1969.
Do the math and you’ll find that this month, Sesame Street turns 40. A new book, Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street (Black Dog & Leventhal, $40), features prominently in an upcoming exhibit at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library. The exhibit showcases Sesame scripts, photographs and original artwork spanning all four decades.
But the real draw will be the Muppets—Grover, Prairie Dawn and Slimy, plus a host of other characters on loan from the Jim Henson Company and the Jim Henson Legacy. When the exhibit opens this month, Sesame star Elmo will be making the rounds, celebrating the launch of BPL’s limited-edition Elmo library card, a bid to attract new cardholders.
Why not an Ernie or Cookie Monster card, you wonder? Besides his undeniable popularity, Elmo is the only character on the program who has a specific age, which just happens to be three and a half—the age of the show’s core audience, says Jennifer Perry, assistant vice-president and editorial director of book publishing at Sesame Workshop. In addition to the new card, there will be exhibit-related programming at several branches, and more than 100,000 Sesame Street bookmarks for the taking—all of it aimed at coaxing kids to just go ahead and turn another page.
Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street is part of the exhibition on view Nov 14--Feb 21 at the BPL’s Central Library, Grand Army Plaza at Flatbush Ave, Prospect Heights (718-230-2100, brooklynpubliclibrary.org).