From bestselling writer David Kamp, the engrossing, behind-the-scenes story of the cultural heroes who created the beloved children’s TV programs Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Free to Be...You and Me, and Schoolhouse Rock!—which collectively transformed American childhood for the better, teaching kids about diversity, the ABCs, and feminism through a fun, funky 1970s lens.
In 1970, on a soundstage on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a group of men, women, and Muppets of various ages and colors worked doggedly to finish the first season of a children’s TV program that was not yet assured a second season: Sesame Street. They were conducting an experiment to see if television could be used to better prepare disadvantaged preschoolers for kindergarten. What they didn’t know then was that they were starting a cultural revolution that would affect all American kids. In Sunny Days, bestselling author David Kamp captures the unique political and social moment that gave us not only Sesame Street, but also Fred Rogers’s gentle yet brave Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; Marlo Thomas’s unabashed gender-politics primer Free to Be...You and Me; Schoolhouse Rock!, an infectious series of educational shorts dreamed up by Madison Avenue admen; and more, including The Electric Company, ZOOM, and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. It was a unique time when an uncommon number of media professionals and thought leaders leveraged their influence to help children learn—and, just as notably, a time of unprecedented buy-in from American parents.
Kamp conducted rigorous research and interviewed such Sesame Street figures as Joan Ganz Cooney, Lloyd Morrisett, Sonia Manzano, Emilio Delgado, Loretta Long, Bob McGrath, and Frank Oz, along with Free to Be’s Marlo Thomas and The Electric Company’s Rita Moreno—and in Sunny Days, he explains how these and other like-minded individuals found their way into children’s television not for fame or money, but to make a difference.
Fun, fascinating, and a masterful work of cultural history, Sunny Days captures a wondrous period in the US when a determined few proved that, with persistence and effort, they could change the lives of millions. It’s both a rollicking ride through a turbulent time and a joyful testament to what Americans are capable of at their best.
David Kamp is an author, journalist, humorist, lyricist, and a charter member of the Sesame Street—viewing audience. A longtime contributor to Vanity Fair, he has profiled such cultural icons as Johnny Cash, Sly Stone, Lucian Freud, Bruce Springsteen, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Among his books are the national bestseller The United States of Arugula, a chronicle of America’s foodways. His first musical as a lyricist, Kiss My Aztec!, a collaboration with John Leguizamo, had its world premiere at Berkeley Rep in 2019. He began his career at Spy, the legendary satirical monthly. He lives with his family in New York City and rural Connecticut.
“Sunny Days is a splendid, clever, inspiring, and strangely suspenseful history of the revolution in children’s television that was Sesame Street. For those of us who grew up with the show, it was as natural and essential as oxygen, but Kamp’s detailed reporting reveals that its existence was anything but assured — in fact, it was a miracle. This book, just like its subject, is a tonic and an education, and casts a bright light of hope during these dark times.”—ELIZABETH GILBERT, #1 New York Times bestseller author
“With Sunny Days, David Kamp captures the pivotal moment when children’s television grew up. It could teach numbers! Letters! Emotions! These shows changed generations of children’s lives, myself included. Kamp has told an inspiring story, powered by love and grace.”—MORGAN NEVILLE, Oscar-winning director of Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
"David Kamp has long been one of the keenest observers of popular culture. In Sunny Days, he turns that formidable mind to something with real emotional heft, too, and brings back to life a time of hope and optimism amidst a country torn apart at the seams. This is an essential book on an essential moment in the history of American television."—BRIAN KOPPELMAN, Co-creator of Billions
"This passionate, highly engaging media history will thrill pop culture buffs and those who remember these shows from their childhood."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"A cultural history of how children's TV, once criticized for banal programming, changed dramatically in the 1960s...Kamp offers a brisk, lively account." —KIRKUS