The Wider Worlds of Jim Henson (2013) – By James L. Neibaur

Subtitled "Essays on his Work and Legacy Beyond THE MUPPET SHOW and SESAME STREET, this book compiles a variety of writings by several scholars (including the authors). The authors’ previous book, KERMIT CULTURE, examined these two aforementioned shows, which were the centerpiece of Henson’s achievements. With this book, they explore avenues that went beyond those more noted areas.

Henson’s accomplishments during his comparatively short 53 year life were vast and far-reaching, his creative imagination and artistic vision permeating several areas of the type of children’s entertainment that crossed over age limitations. Television’s FRAGGLE ROCK and cinema’s THE DARK CRYSTAL and LABYRINTH showed Henson able to alternate between insightful TV fare for youngsters under the guise of standard entertainment, and the visual elegance of fantasy filmmaking.

This approach, compiling various essays on common themes into an anthology, allows for a variety of perspectives each offering a great deal of depth to Henson’s brilliance for visual imagery, storytelling, and positive underlying themes that have a subliminal impact on the viewer. Conceptual themes that exist beneath the surface, the messages inherent within the entertainment, are all covered with revealing insight.

The only drawback this book has is its being completely devoid of illustrations, save for a nice color shot from LABYRINTH on the cover. Since Henson’s work is defined as much by its visuals as by its themes, the lack of graphics to enhance points made in the text is unfortunate. Perhaps this is something of a trifling quibble in that the reader will likely be familiar with the visual checkpoints offered within the various essays.

THE WIDER WORLDS OF JIM HENSON is an important, enlightening compilations of thoughtful, intriguing essays on one of the 20th centuries most creative minds. Highly recommended.