Recently, I asked YOU, the readers of this website, to give me your picks for the Second-Most Classic Sesame Street Book of All Time.
In that article, I started out by declaring that The Monster at the End of This Book is obviously the #1 all-time classic, and I’m a little bit surprised that nobody even attempted to disagree with this assertion. If only because people on the internet love arguing. But no, apparently I’ve discovered the one thing that every human agrees on: Grover’s hilarious, metafictional descent into terror is the Most Classic Sesame Street Book ever.
So what’s number two on the list, according to Tough Pigs readers? Well, I won’t keep you in suspense. The winner was a book that I’m ashamed to say I forgot to mention in the original article, but it’s a book that deserves the honor:
Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree, which earned 18.2% of the vote.
Why? Well, as Jamie B said, “Joe Mathieu‘s artwork is so animated and alive, and it’s got a lot of ambition within its additional characters!” And as Quentin T said, “[E]ven when many of the character interactions are brief, they still pack in all their personalities.” And Mike E summed it up thusly: “It’s a wonderful and funny book with a heartwarming lesson about sharing.”
So it’s official! Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree is the Second-Most Classic Sesame Street Book of All Time. If you have a copy handy, go celebrate right now by reading it. Preferably while eating cookies. But for heaven’s sake, share the cookies with your friends!
And now let’s talk about the runners-up.
The next most popular choice was Grover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum, with 11.1% of the vote. I didn’t vote in this survey, but I must say, if I had, this is probably the book I would have ended up voting for. It’s just like a classic Grover sketch from the show, but… more.
Or as reader Tourmaline said, “It’s just really funny and memorable.” Lucas R added, “The ‘big’ room that has sad-eyed Big Bird looking up at us: I always loved finding this picture as a kid. As an adult, it looks like he’s beyond bored as his job appears to be just standing in a museum.”
I never expected The Sesame Street Dictionary to grab 9.1% of the vote, but maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me to put this book in the running – after all, you don’t think about Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English Unabridged Edition when you make lists of great literary works.
But The Sesame Street Dictionary is different. It’s a genuinely helpful resource for kids, but it’s also jam-packed with wonderful illustrations and little jokes. And as Scott said, it might just be “Joe Mathieu’s magnum opus.” (Hey, there’s that Mathieu guy again.) Hooray for the dictionary!
Then there were two books by our favorite lovable misanthrope.
How to Be a Grouch (written and illustrated by Caroll Spinney!) picked up a dirty and dingy 7.1% of the vote and Oscar’s Book received a dusty 5.1%. Several folks pointed out how special it is that How to Be a Grouch was written by the guy who literally knew Oscar inside and out.
A few books received three votes each:
- The Bert & Ernie Book (“captures an essential Muppetness that endures,” says Levanna W)
- Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street (Ren calls it “a perennial litany against seasonal depression.”)
- Grover’s New Kitten (with its photos of Grover and a real kitten, this might be the Most Adorable Sesame Street Book of All Time)
And for the honorable mentions. By which I mean, every remaining book! They’re all honorable and worthy of mention!
There were many books that were submitted just once or twice each, but I don’t want to leave them out. This list is a treasure trove of words, pictures, and Muppets. Why, I bet if you lean toward your screen and sniff, you’ll be able to catch a whiff of that delightful “bookstore smell.”
And remember: Your child does not have to watch the Sesame Street television program to benefit from these books.
- Big Bird and Little Bird’s Big & Little Book
- Big Bird’s Busy Book
- Big Bird’s Big Book (This one seems really cool! The physical book itself is really big — 16″ x 24″! — and the interior is a bunch of epic Joe Mathieu illustrations. I think I’m going to look for this one on eBay. And I think Joe Mathieu is the MVP of Sesame Street books.)
- The Day Grover Moved to Sesame Street
- A Day in the Country
- Don’t Cry, Big Bird
- Ernie Follows His Nose
- The Exciting Adventures of Super Grover
- Farley Goes to the Doctor (Justin says, “It stars the single most memorable Sesame Street Character of all time.”)
- Farmer Grover
- Sesame Street Presents the Four Seasons (Katie H notes Ernie’s creative rhyming of “swimming” and “wimming”)
- The Great Sesame Street ABC Hunt (This was a customized mail-order book that incorporated the name of the kid who was reading it!)
- Grover, Messenger of Love (I’m a fan of this one, which features Grover delivering romantic notes to two star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a wall. Grover is hilariously injured over the course of the book.)
- I Am a Monster (Muppet Wiki lists the author of this one as “H. Monster.”)
- I’ll Miss You, Mr. Hooper (“Bonus points for still managing to be heartbreaking in so few pages,” says Max H)
- I’m My Mommy – I’m My Daddy (I had never heard of this one, but it has two covers and features two stories, in which a young Muppet imagines being his father and his mother.)
- Moon! (An Elmo book with a squeaking moon inside in its pages!)
- Oscar’s Rotten Birthday
- Gordon of Sesame Street Tells a Story: The Pecan Tree
- The Perils of Penelope (If you haven’t read this, you should seek it out. It’s a pastiche of early movie serials, with an exasperated Bert as Pauline and Ernie as a series of kindly heroes who save the day.)
- Potty Time with Elmo (Jack R notes that this is the book that made headlines when an electronic talking edition featured an Elmo who asked “Who has to go?” but to some parents it sounded like “Who wants to die?”)
- See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Smell No Evil (This one incorporates the Sesame Street “Clubhouse,” which was made as a cool toy I never owned. And it’s a scratch-and-sniff book! Also, it’s startling to see a Sesame Street book with the word “evil” in the title.)
- Sesame Beginnings: Bath Time!
- The Together Book (a quirky classic familiar to longtime followers of the Tough Pigs Book Club!)
- Vegetable Soup (Hugh recalls, “Cookie Monster comes up with all sorts of irresponsible things to do with vegetables. I still considering sharpening a carrot to use as a writing utensil when I’m without a pen or a pencil.”)
- We’re Different, We’re the Same
- What’s Up in the Attic? (including the remarkable revelation that Ernie and Bert have an attic!)
So many good books!
I also want to note that, when readers provided their reasons for submitting a particular book, it was extremely common for the explanation to include childhood memories of parents or grandparents reading the book out loud, or learning to read for the first time, or reading and re-reading the same book for years. Sesame Street looms large as a TV show, but these books have firmly embedded themselves in our brains and our hearts.
Just, like, not literally. That would be painful.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their picks – and huge thanks to all the writers and illustrators who brought us these great books!
And humongous thanks as always to Muppet Wiki for images! Click here to express your love for the dictionary on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com