An earnest but lopsided Christian reading of the birth and growth of Sesame Street.

The Gospel According to Sesame Street


A revisionary, religious analysis of a beloved children’s TV show.

Over the course of 46 seasons on the air, the popular PBS (and now HBO) show Sesame Street has imparted gentle lessons about tolerance, patience, and optimism to countless children and given great help to parents and teachers along the way. In this often engaging nonfiction debut, Dreibelbis refers to it as “one of the most significant television programs of all time,” and aims to make the case that the core teachings of Sesame Street map onto those of Christianity with nearly one-to-one fidelity. He takes readers through a lucid, engaging recounting of the show’s origins as the “brainchild” of educational-TV documentary producer Joan Ganz Cooney; her husband, Tim Cooney; and Lloyd Morrisett, the vice president of the Carnegie Corporation. He tells with understated skill how Joan Ganz Cooney learned about Jim Henson and worked to sell him on the idea of lending his talents to the new show. After relating humorous details of the first meeting between the laid-back Henson and corporate network representatives, Dreibelbis quotes a Cooney interview in which she flatly admitted: “We would not be around if not for the Muppets.” All of this makes for a very enjoyable entertainment-industry history along the lines of Michael Davis’ Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street (2008). However, Dreibelbis puts his own spin on the story by overlaying some biblical parallels that might have surprised the Cooneys and their colleagues (such as “There may be a parallel between Doubting Thomas and Sesame Street’s Big Bird and his good friend Snuffleupagus”). At one point, for example, the author unconvincingly links the concept of targeting the show at economically disadvantaged children to a biblical reading that asserts that “Jesus Didn’t Hang Around With the Cool Kids”; he also tries to compare the show’s emphasis on healthy living to dietary discussions in the Book of Daniel, and so on. Readers who come to the book for an anecdote-rich history of their favorite TV show will find it more rewarding reading than those who come to the book looking for religious inspiration.

An earnest but lopsided Christian reading of the birth and growth of Sesame Street.

Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-5113-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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