Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Grover Is A Successful Character

Super Grover
In 1967, the Muppet known as Grover (going under various names until 1970) was created. Since that time, he continued to be a strong character in a cast of many. But the creative minds at Children's Television Workshop brought another Muppet to Sesame Street who is very Grover-ish, hoping to revive the show.

Elmo may have breathed new life into the flagging children's program, but the cool monsters were already there (these monsters were, of course, cute and fuzzy). I understand why Elmo was picked. He's red (i.e. flashy) and talks and thinks like a child. I think this was done to catch a wider audience, but let me explain why I think Grover is still a better character.

He Was An Adult Learning With Kids
Don't Look Grover! Hairy Monster Behind You!
Grover was a 'grown-up' monster. If you don't think he was an 'adult' monster, then you have to at least concede that Grover was older than all the kids on the show. But his age never stopped him from learning new things and sometimes being embarrassed when he didn't know something. Sometimes he was even afraid of things and the kids had to help and teach him.

Imagine that. An adult learning from kids.

Just think what that does to a child's morale when they understand something that an older person doesn't. I believe this was his biggest teaching technique.

He Always Tried New Things
Grover was very curious and from a child's perspective, almost everything they experience is new and sometimes confusing. But when someone older can say, "Wow! I didn't know that," it shows kids that they're not alone. It gives them an ally they can stand with when things get confusing or frightening. Since Grover didn't know a lot of things himself, he had a full world to explore.

As a writer, I've learned that this is a successful tool many published authors use to give exposition. A character who doesn't know something, gives the opportunity to teach.

The Monster at the End of This Book
A Must Read!
He Always Tried Hard
Nothing stopped Grover from doing something. Well... sometimes. Crazy fits ensued if he got too frightened or impatient. But he always tried.

My all-time favorite children's book is, The Monster at the end of this Book. If you have children, I can't recommend this one enough to you. One word of warning though, this is a book you HAVE to read to your kids and it will cause endless requests for re-reads.

The premise of the book is in the title. Grover is a participant with the reader in the book (just as he is on Sesame Street) and suddenly realizes he doesn't want to see the monster at the end of the book.
Grover Sesame Street Monster at the End of this Book iPad iPhone App
Stop Turning Pages!

Monsters are scary after all...

But the reader keeps turning pages (even better when you let the kids turn the pages)! So Grover is forced to come up with elaborate ways to prevent pages being turned. With fun illustrations, this book gives the reader an opportunity to let out their inner ham as they portray the rapidly panicking Grover. And if you can read the book in Grover's voice, it's even better.

There is also an interactive app that reads the book to kids (available for the same price as the book - $3.99). [Click here to see a video of it on YouTube]

Last Bit
So when you're watching a show, consider the characters and who their target audience is. Think about why they work or don't work. And if you're writing a book, think about your target audience and how you can best make your characters into the reader's close friends.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I found you on InkPagent and look forward to reading more.


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