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October 15, 2009 Edition
In the beginning (1969), there was a dinner party at which a crucial question was debated: can television be used to teach young children? The answer became “Sesame Street,” a creative collaboration by producers, puppeteers, children’s educators, and kids themselves. Davis’ book is fairly exhaustive in its coverage of the early years of the show, presenting most of the major players (with some omissions) and describing the way show concepts were thought up and episodes were made. The later years are more thinly covered, but on the whole, this is a delightful look at the world’s longest running and most widely broadcast children’s show in the world. Bonus: it’s narrated by Caroll Spinney, voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch!
Fischer, acclaimed biographer of George Washington and Paul Revere, presents listeners with larger-than-life French explorer, Samuel de Champlain. Something of a Renaissance man, Champlain is a sailor and admiral who led 27 Atlantic crossings without losing a ship, an explorer who founded New France (now Quebec), and an artist, cartographer, naturalist, and ethnographer whose meticulous journals continue to be a wealth of information. And he is a peacemaker, who works hard to further his dream of a New World in which community exists between all groups, Native and French, Protestant and Catholic alike.
If you’ve ever wondered what Harvard does to turn out those MBA holders, pick up this audiobook. Written by a former journalist who glimpsed the quiet paneled office of a business magnate and decided he’d wanted something plusher for himself, this is an inside view of two years at business school. Harvard prepares its students to become rich: Broughton discovers that the Harvard name, combined with a business plan scribbled on a napkin and a few Powerpoint slides, gets him the attention of major venture capitalists. In the end, though, Broughton realizes that he just isn’t willing to give up family and leisure time for years in a cubicle for a chance at a plush office. Vance does a good job conveying Broughton’s alternating confusion and smugness.
Listeners familiar with the Amelia Peabody mystery series will find much familiar ground here: Mertz, an Egyptologist by training, is the mind behind Elizabeth Peter’s pen. Here she immerses listeners in the daily life of ancient Egyptians, from peasants to pharaohs, from birth to work to death. Historically accurate and incredibly detailed, this could be a text book – but engagingly written enough to tempt any reader curious about the ways people used to go about the business of life. Raver, the reader, keeps pace with Mertz’s wit and never loses enthusiasm.
Long before video games showed up to corrupt impressionable young minds, there were comic books. In the 1940s there were around 1,000 writers and illustrators employed by the industry, pumping out 650 titles a month which sold a combined 80 to 100 million copies every week. But by the mid-50s, 8 out of 10 industry employees had lost their jobs and title releases had dropped by two-thirds, victims of the Comics Magazine Association of America Code. Designed to placate parents who found comic books unsavory (and many were), the Code decreed there would be no more comics featuring the walking dead (and other such creatures), no words with undesirable meanings, and no titles with “horror” or “terror” in them (among other stipulations). The result was a product no one wanted, and the first stand in a war between generations.