Jim Henson’s birthday was yesterday, which turned anyone with a soul’s thoughts all Muppety. While most Muppet achievements were confined to television sets and movie screens, the cast of characters also made an impact on the book world.
A gaggle of Muppet characters have ostensibly put paw, flipper or hoof to keyboard with publishing success. (Did the Muppets really write these books themselves? Well, if I’m supposed to believe that Pamela Anderson wrote a novel and Bristol Palin had no help with her memoir, then I say: Yes, absolutely.)
This list includes books by both Muppet Show Muppets and Sesame Street characters, and it was a tad tough to narrow down. The Amazing Mumford’s foray into science with his book on bones, Bert’s Hall of Great Inventions and Elmo’s unabashedly-titled Balls! weren’t easily eliminated, mind you.
The 10 Best Books Written by Muppets
#10 One Frog Can Make a Difference: Kermit’s Guide to Life in the ‘90s by Kermit the Frog
Though the title is dated, don’t discount the wisdom of a frog who received an honorary doctorate of Amphibious Letters from Southampton College in 1996. He even dispenses advice for writers: "It's all kinds of simple: Just don't take yourself too seriously and don't listen to experts (including pigs), and you've pretty much got it."
#9 The Muppet Picnic Cookbook by Jim Henson’s Muppets
This rare and elusive cookbook was only briefly published by Hallmark, so if you can find a copy, guard it like your Mamaw’s stew-stained recipe cards. Featuring recipes from Muppet Show cast members (Animal’s Zesty Baked Beans, Kermit’s Swamp Salad), it also contains what might well be the only printed copy of a Swedish Chef recipe. His Barbecued Filet of Sole calls for two sneakers, but allows for the substitution of broiler chickens.
#8 Miss Piggy’s Treasury of Art Masterpieces from the Kermitage Collection by Miss Piggy (Edited by Henry Beard)
Miss Piggy has two entries on this list for good reason: she has more books than any other character. The Suzanne Somers of Muppet celebrity publishing, Miss Piggy goes well beyond Somers’ moody poetry and menopause musings. A case in point is this brilliantly curated art collection, containing Botticelli’s The Birth of You Know Who (pictured), Whistler’s Weirdo and Rembrandt’s Arisfroggle contemplating the bust of a Twerp.
#7 Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life, Miss Piggy's Rules or The Diva Code by Miss Piggy
Miss Piggy's Guide to Life is out-of-print, but her other self-help books The Diva Code and The Rules spoof Miss Piggy’s Rules contain similar advice in a glamorously self-indulgent style previously matched only by Miss Eartha Kitt. If you need to know when a karate chop is better than a kiss or which furs to pack, this one’s for you.
#6 Fozzie Bear’s Big Book of Side Splitting Jokes by Fozzie Bear
File this one next to Henny Youngman’s Giant Book of Jokes. The vaudevillian is the master behind lines like “I don’t approve of belly dancers. Why can’t they dance on the floor like everyone else?” Can’t find a copy? Follow Fozzie on Facebook.
#5 Oscar the Grouch’s Alphabet of Trash by Oscar the Grouch
The number of ABC books out there could probably fill a billion empty Borders stores, but from Anne Geddes’ babies-in-bumblebee-outfits to Richard Scarry’s bunnies-acting-like-people, alphabet books have always been a bit precious. Not so with Oscar’s ABC, where D is for dust and E is for eggshells. Full of crummy stuff for those who love crummy stuff.
#4 It’s Hard Out Here for a Shrimp by Pepe the King Prawn
In the vein (Get it? Vein?) of fellow cast members guides to life, the Malaga, Spain-born prawn dishes advice on “the womens.” Tip: the whole thing is better if you read it in Pepe’s voice. (Example: “Never ask out the woman who just finished talking to your ex-girlfriend, okay?”)
#3 Before You Leap: A Frog’s Eye View of Life’s Greatest Lessons by Kermit the Frog
When you tire of Lao Tzu or Emerson, it would serve you well to seek the wisdom of one of entertainment’s greatest thinkers. Seriously. The first of his family to leave the swamp, Kermit overcame his humble beginnings to become a hard-working reporter (and the best-looking one before we had Anderson Cooper) and ultimately a star.
#2 How to Be a Grouch by Oscar the Grouch
Oscar’s alphabet was just a warm-up. All the good stuff is in here, with Oscar dispensing secrets for becoming a grouch yourself. One of my favorite tips is the advice to sleep with rocks in your bed, with your head hanging over onto the floor, so you’ll wake up good and grouchy. Oscar also clues us in on what grouches eat: pickle splits, chunky fish ice cream or hot beef stew with chocolate gravy in a melon, for example.
#1 The Monster at the End of This Book by Grover
The book may be credited to Jon Stone, but the entire thing is in first person, so this is clearly an as-told-to credit. If you were lucky enough to grow up with this book, congratulate yourself, because that means you were probably also lucky enough to have a parent who read it to you in Grover’s voice. Grover’s pleas for you to stop turning the pages are among the most melodramatic in all literature, and most people’s first experience with the breaking of the fourth wall --or whatever the literary equivalent is. (Lesser known is Lovable, Furry Old Grover’s Resting Places --also an interactive piece worth a look for young ‘uns.)
Easton Press needs to get on this one. I’d shell out for a leatherbound in a heartbeat.
There are a few titles I'd like to see from the Muppets: a full Swedish Chef cookbook, for example, a tell-all bio from Janice of the Electric Mayhem and a manifesto from Sam the Eagle. What would you like to see?