On the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street we want to honor our favorite residents of the best street in New York City…how else? With books. Grover, Cookie, and the rest of the gang star in many books themselves. Authors have used Sesame Street characters to address topics like racism and friendship, perseverance, and kindness, as well as educational basics like the ABCs and 123s.
For Sesame Street’s 45th anniversary in 2014, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and Sesame Workshop collaborated on a major exhibition that offered fans of all ages the opportunity to experience what it’s like to create an episode of the show. This year, we’ve come up with some personalized reading recommendations for Grover, Cookie, and the rest of the gang. As city residents, of course they have library cards and can check out these books for free!
This giant yellow feathered marshmallow is an eternal child, with a guileless sense of wonder and playfulness and everything good in the world.
Adult pick: Kindness is the name of Big Bird’s game. He’s always learning something new about how to be a good citizen, a true friend, or a better helper. To that end, we think he’d love Gmorning, Gnight!, a compendium of little Twitter pep talks written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (a frequent Sesame Street contributor!) and illustrated by Jonny Sun.
Kid pick: The picture book On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier has always evinced the same sense of wonder and miraculousness that Big Bird inspires.
We always suspected that Big Bird’s best friend—a shaggy brown elephant-like creature with a trunk—would be a serious book-lover. (We always knew you were real, Snuffy.)
Adult pick: Essayist and poet Mary Reufle wrote a meditative reflection, On Imagination, that gathers together unexpected and varied sources to assemble a “curio cabinet” of creative voices and ideas.
Kid pick: So many great kids’ books feature imaginary (or not) friends that it’s hard to choose just one, but we’ll go with Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas. This beautifully illustrated middle grade novel features a protagonist, Jacques, who’s either Fleur’s twin or a figment of her imagination.
Oscar the Grouch
The meditation craze might give trash-loving Oscar some much-needed relief from his ever-present anger. Take a breath, buddy.
Adult pick: Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment—and Your Lifeby Jon Kabat-Zinn. You can do it, Oscar!
Kid pick: Oscar must get pretty stiff from sitting in that can all the time, so we suggest he put a lid on it and duck down below to practice with You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses by Tae-Eun Yoo.
It’s time for Cookie to take matters into his own hands and learn to feed his own habit. Literally.
Adult pick: A massive, 438-page homage to cookie-baking from America’s Test Kitchen: The Perfect Cookie: Your Ultimate Guide to Foolproof Cookies, Brownies, & Bars. And an honorable mention for this The Cookie Collection: Artisan Baking for the Cookie Enthusiast by Brian Hart Hoffman, because “enthusiast” is an understatement.
Kid pick: Of course, we need to start with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff—which might also encourage Cookie to share. And the rest of the series might help him broaden his palate. He could give a Moose a Muffin...a Pig a Pancake…a Dog a Donut…
This lovable, furry blue monster steals our hearts on the regular. (Remember the 1971 classic, The Monster at the End of This Book? It holds up beautifully and will still make your toddler lol.)
Adult pick: Grover may be a less-than-stellar server—his most frequent profession—and we think he’d find kindred spirits in two beautifully written novels about the behind-the-scenes life in a restaurant: Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan and Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.
Kid pick: Super Grover, a.k.a. Grover Kent, is probably Grover’s most popular job among kids, so we’re recommending another unconventional superhero: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton, a graphic novel about finding your inner superhero and using your powers to help your friends.
This lovable, neurotic mess of a muppet has two obsessions that make him our easiest recommendations customer.
Adult pick: The Perfection of the Paper Clip: Curious Tales of Invention, Accidental Genius, and Stationery Obsession by James Ward. Bert has a beloved paper clip collection, and we know he’d appreciate a closer look into the invention of one of his most treasured possessions—and other fascinating objects, too.
Happy-go-lucky Ernie is everyone’s pal. He loves Bert, rubber ducks, bubble baths, playing the saxophone…so many books to choose from.
Adult pick: Remember that episode when Ernie and Bert re-enacted “The Gift of the Magi”? Ernie traded his rubber duck for a cigar box where Bert could keep his paper clips, but Bert traded his clips for a soap dish for Ernie’s duck? And then Mr. Hooper gave them both back?! What a moment. Maybe Ernie wants to read the original, and more of O. Henry’s classic short stories.
Kid pick: A selection of bath books might help Ernie love his tub time even more: How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps by Nicola Winstanley; art by John Martz is a great start.
Count von Count
Things have changed since the Count first came on the scene, and it no longer seems as simple as one peanut-butter sandwich, ha ha haaaa. Delightfully, he’s recently discovered it’s okay to make mistakes when you’re doing math! We’re here for it.
Adult pick: With that in mind, we’d like the Count to check out A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)by Barbara Oakley. It addresses the psychological piece of the puzzle, including math anxiety, learning styles, and how to train your brain to view numbers differently.
Rosita is Sesame Street’s first major bilingual character, and she often presented the Spanish Word of the Day, so we wanted to offer some vocabulary-building picks in both languages.
Adult pick: We bet Rosita would love Mango Languages, a free database for language-learners. If she’d already maxed out the Spanish track, she could go tri-lingual and check out one of the 70+ other languages—Arabic, Mandarin, French, Greek, Korean, and more.
Kid pick: There are so many kids’ resources for learning Spanish that it’s hard to choose just one…how about this cool Spanish Picture Dictionary or the sweet board book, Little Sunny Sunshine = Sol Solecito by Susie Jaramillo.
This is the song! La la la la! Elmo and his song might grate on adult nerves from time to time, but kids go bananas for this furry red preschooler.
Kid pick: Elmo has a pet goldfish named Dorothy, so we think he’d love My Best Friend Is a Goldfish by Mark Lee, art by Chris Jevons.
Another sweet kiddo in the Muppet-verse! Abby is in training to be a fairy, and she can do magic.
Adult pick: A grown-up fairy needs a slightly darker story, right? Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver features fairies—and other magic— with a decidedly adult twist.
Kid pick: Abby could meet her comrades in the super-popular young reader series by Daisy Meadows. Jade the Disco Fairy, Jennifer the Hairstsylist Fairy, Kayla the Pottery Fairy, Monica the Marshmallow Fairy…the sparkly covers and consistent storylines are irresistible to readers who are just starting chapter books. Abby and Elmo could bond over Molly the Goldfish Fairy!
Bonus pick: Abby herself appears in Love from Sesame Street, written by the Sesame Workshop for the youngest readers. It’s all about the different kinds of love in the world, and Abby’s contribution—"Love is magical and full of wonder"—seems perfect for her.
Maria, Bob, Luis, & Gordon
Look, no one’s in this for the humans. But we thought Sesame Street’s resident non-puppets deserved book recs too. (Don’t even talk to us about Mr. Hooper; we can’t handle it.)
Adult pick: Sonia Manzano, who played Maria and wrote for the show for decades, penned a 2015 autobiography titled Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. Check it out in English or Spanish.
Kid pick: How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander has great advice for all ages. Who doesn’t want to go to a giant book party?
Photos by NYPL's Jonathan Blanc from the 45th anniversary Library of the Performing Arts exhibition.