Street Gang

Street Gang

The Complete History of Sesame Street

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780143116639
  • 400 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


The New York Times bestselling account of the story behind one of the most influential, durable, and beloved shows in the history of television: Sesame Street, moving to HBO this fall

“Davis tracks down every Sesame anecdote and every Sesame personality in his book . . . Finally, we get to touch Big Bird’s feathers.” —The New York Times Book Review

Sesame Street is the longest-running-and arguably most beloved- children’s television program ever created. Today, it reaches some six million preschoolers weekly in the United States and countless others in 140 countries around the world.

Street Gang is the compelling, comical, and inspiring story of a media masterpiece and pop-culture landmark. Television reporter and columnist Michael Davis-with the complete participation of Joan Ganz Cooney, one of the show’s founders-unveils the idealistic personalities, decades of social and cultural change, stories of compassion and personal sacrifice, and miraculous efforts of writers, producers, directors, and puppeteers that together transformed an empty soundstage into the most recognizable block of real estate in television history.


“Davis spins an evocative, insidery tale out of the wildly creative personalities and political ups and downs of the cozily delivered show.”
—Washington Post
“Davis tracks down every Sesame anecdote and every Sesame personality in his book. . . . Finally, we get to touch Big Bird’s feathers.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Davis writes that when the show débuted, in 1969, the goal of its creators was nothing short of righting ‘the inequities in our society’ through the education of lower-class preschoolers. Such populist choices as an urban setting, a multiracial cast, and a catchy brand of ‘edutainment’ reflected both the mood of the era (it should ‘jump and move fast and feel and sound like 1969,’ a producer said) and painstaking research: a series of seminars held in the summer of 1968 was attended by developmental psychologists, television-industry insiders, and children’s authors and entertainers (Maurice Sendak endured boring sessions by making X-rated doodles; Jim Henson’s sandals and beard sparked fears that he was a Weatherman).”
—The New Yorker
“It was a pleasure to spend some time back were everything’s A-OK.”
—Los Angeles Times
Street Gang is informative, heartbreaking, hilarious, and often eye-opening, even for the most Sesame Street-wise . . . Davis is a sensitive and subtly brilliant writer who conveys the soul of the program that has earned more Emmys than any other in history while managing to stay true to its founders’ idealistic vision: ‘All children deserve a chance to learn and grow. To be prepared for school. To better understand the world and each other. To think, dream and discover. To reach their highest potential.’”
—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Davis shows just how revolutionary [Sesame Street] was, from its tackling of taboo themes like death to its diverse cast and gritty urban setting. Boasting a panel of academic advisers, it was the first show to successfully teach kids letters and numbers in a way that was hip and raucous. Davis delves into the lives of the colorful folk who made it all happen, including Children’s Television Workshop cofounder Joan Ganz Cooney and Muppets creator Jim Henson. . . . Davis’s chronicle is as joyfully compelling as Sesame Street itself.”
“Davis writes with such vivid details that one can almost see the brownstone houses and the furry, feathery, fresh-faced Muppets.”
—The Baltimore Sun
“A fascinating page-turner chock full of juicy revelations.”
—Atlanta Journal Constitution
“Davis culls insights from the show’s creators and cast to serve up this painstakingly detailed history of television’s most famous address.”
“The author’s swift narrative—the product of hundreds of interviews—is essentially a Dumpster dive into Oscar’s trash can of cast stories. . . . A sensitive, honest account that could jog fond memories even from the amnesiac Street denizen Forgetful Jones.”
Time Out New York
“Well-researched details and an unflinching eye make Davis’s book continuously fascinating.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Anyone who has ever seen Sesame Street as parent or child—or both—will love the detail and exuberance of this book.”

“What I appreciate about Michael Davis’s new book on Sesame Street is the depth of his research and how he spotlights those people who deserve to have more light shed upon them for their great contributions to the show. And what’s refreshing is how he does not run away from conflicts that sometimes occurred behind the scenes, which were part of the creative energy of the show. He has really captured the spirit of how Sesame Street came to be. A wonderful book.”
—Frank Oz, film director and original performer of Bert, Cookie Monster, and Grover

“This marvelous book reads like a novel and reminds us why and how Sesame Street came to be the national treasure it is . . . for all of America’s children, even the ones my age.”
—Linda Ellerbee, producer, Nick News and co-host of NBC News Overnight
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