Tough Pigs Soapbox

April 27, 2004

 

Muppet Book Club

"I'll Miss You, Mr Hooper"

 

Book  :   Part 1  --  Part 2

Commentary  :   Part 3  --  Part 4

 

 

 

Missing Mr Hooper

 

Alaina Breeden:

I always cry at the story of Mr Hooper's death, and this time was no exception. I think the part that really got to me was page 15: "When I woke up in the night from a scary nightmare, and Mr Hooper held me tight until I felt better." It reminds me of my grandmother holding me and making me feel better after I had gotten really sick.

 

That's what Mr Hooper is -- he's your grandparent. He helps you when you fall, comforts you when you're scared, and spoils you with birdseed or vanilla milkshakes (whatever the case may be). He's the warm comforting feeling that only an older person can give you.

 

Jamie Denny:

Wow, I'd never seen that book before. I'm so moved. I started crying, which is bizarre as I only knew about Will Lee/Mr Hooper when they showed some reruns on Channel Four here in the UK.

 

I guess that's the power of the writing, and empathy.

 

Kevin Williams:

Reading the book is like watching the show all over again. Like the first time I saw the show, this brought a tear to my eye. Nothing gets to me like a Big Bird crying. 

 

It's not an upbeat book, but it does remind you to hold fast to memories of friends and family, and to make the most of the time you have with someone -- because it doesn't last forever, except in our hearts.

 

Jogchem Jalink:

In the Dutch Sesamstraat, we had "grandpa" Lex Goudsmit who passed away in 1999, but no special script was made about him. Instead, they made a Lex compilation and talked about his death on the Youth News that airs after Sesame.

 

Lex had said he wanted to stay on Sesame Street even after his death, so the latest scenes he taped were still used on the next season. He disappeared slowly. In my room I have a photo of me and Lex together, when we met. He was a great man.

 

As for Mr Hooper, I never grew up with him on TV -- but I had a set of translated Sesame Street encyclopedia books that featured Mr Hooper as the only human among the Muppets, so I knew who he was. When I discovered the online world and learned that he had died, I was shocked. I always thought of him as one of the main Sesame inhabitants, even before I saw him on TV.

 

Ryan Roe:

I'm not certain whether I remember Mr Hooper from watching the show or not. I would have been under two years old when he died -- but he was present on records and in books that I had. I feel like I remember him, anyway.

 

 

It's Not All Right

 

John Hamilton:

I always marveled at the way the adult characters comforted Big Bird, and each other. You really get the feeling that they're like a family. The emotional interaction between them always made me very emotional, and still does. I think Will Lee would have been proud to know that his life inspired such love, as well as such a good book/episode.

 

PS. Did the Sesame guys always have such really huge hands? Curious.

 

Jogchem Jalink:

Big Bird walking upside down "just because" and later Gordon explaining "just because," both because they couldn't think of anything else, is brilliant. I've never seen any better way to explain death.

 

Danny Horn:

I hadn't realized that Big Bird's "just because" early in the book is supposed to echo Gordon's "just because." That's terrific.

 

My favorite thing about this book (and the episode) is that the adults don't try to jolly Big Bird out of his feelings. When someone's in pain, it's so common for other people to try to distract them, or tell them it's not so bad. It's hard to just sit with someone you care about, and feel bad with them. You get the urge to fix it, to somehow take the pain away from them. That never works, and I think it ends up minimizing the person's pain and making them feel even worse.

 

It's so much harder just to say, "It makes us feel sad and angry too." Just to sit there with the feelings, and not have to make them go away -- because the feelings are real and important, and that's what there is. I think that's the thing that makes Big Bird able to feel a little better. He knows that he's not alone in his feelings. 

 

Big Bird is still sad on the last page. There's no fakey resolution where they go to the pet store and buy him a new old man to be friends with. The book just lets him be wistful; it gives him the space to grieve. I think this is the most grown-up Sesame Street book they ever made.    

 

Michal Richardson:

The writers of the show and of the book deal very well with the subject matter. Big Bird's feelings are validated, but he's still given some very apt words of comfort.

 

The grownups are sad and angry too -- just as helpless as Big Bird when it comes to solving this particular problem. Still, Big Bird knows that he can turn to them to take care of him and make him birdseed milkshakes. He knows that he hasn't been abandoned, which is as important as being able to feel sad and angry.

 

"But we can be glad we had the chance to be with him and know him and love him when he was here." Those grownups really know what they're doing.

 

Dave Thomer:

In the Biography special, the Sesame Workshop consultant reinforced exactly this message in the hurricane episode. She said it was very important that when Big Bird said "It's not all right," that Gordon validate what he was feeling -- "You're right, Big Bird, it's not all right," -- before going on to say, "but it will be all right." 

 

The writers thought that this made the dialogue a bit awkward, but they made it work.

 

Words and Pictures

 

Anthony Strand:

What struck me were the drawings of Big Bird. The emotion in those drawings is unreal. There's not a single picture of the bird that doesn't show exactly how he's feeling at any given time. If the book didn't have any words, you could still follow the story just by looking at Big Bird on every page. Outstanding.

 

Shawn Pero:

I think this is the only time I've seen Joe Mathieu draw the humans, and it's just amazing. Not too caricature-y, but still very stylized. I've seen Sesame illustrators do humans before, and you'd have a hard time telling who they're supposed to be. Not so here -- each one is very recognizable, and the emotions are really clearly expressed.

 

Although I do have to say that not even Joe could make David look attractive.

 

Book  :   Part 1  --  Part 2

Commentary  :   Part 3  --  Part 4

 

 

Danny@ToughPigs.com

 

 

Soapbox Contents

Muppet Book Club: "I Can't Wait Until Christmas"

Muppet Book Club: "The Great Twiddlebug Mystery"

Muppet Book Club: "The Case of the Missing Mother"

Muppet Book Club: "Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree"