I love puppets! Here are books I recommend about puppet history and puppets of many lands. Most links are for more info at Amazon.com, an affiliate. If the book isn’t there, try the online store of Puppeteers of America, at store.puppeteers.org. By the way, you’ll find some scripts of mine that are adaptable for puppet productions on Aaron’s RT Page. And don’t miss my story “The Four Puppets: A Tale of Burma.”
Puppetry: A World History, by Eileen Blumenthal, Abrams, New York, 2005. An amazing and lavish overview, focusing on common themes in puppetry, rather than on distinct cultural traditions. Includes a special focus on contemporary avant-garde puppetry in the theater world. Occasionally dry, but often fascinating. Published in the U.K. by Thames & Hudson as Puppetry and Puppets.
The Art of the Puppet, by Bil Baird, Bonanza/Crown, New York, 1973. Certainly one of the finest books ever published on the international art of puppetry. A wonderful overview with lavish color photographs.
Strings, Hands, Shadows: A Modern Puppet History, by John Bell, Detroit Institute of Arts, 2005. A fine and up-to-date look at the world of puppets and puppetry.
The Puppet, by René Simmen, Crowell, New York, 1972. A selective look at puppetry in historical Europe and some Asian cultures. Translated from the German.
Traditional and Folk Puppets of the World, by Michael R. Malkin, A. S. Barnes, Cranbury, New Jersey, 1977. A look at puppets in selected cultures, especially outside Europe.
Dolls and Puppets, Second Edition, by Max von Boehn, translated by Josephine Nicoll, Branford, Boston, 1956. The second half of this book, written by a respected German authority on folk art, is a detailed history of puppetry, with numerous black-and-white photos. The book was first published in Germany in 1929 and is updated in this edition to 1955 by Lili Criswell.
The Puppet Theatre in America: A History, by Paul McPharlin, updated by Marjorie Batchelder McPharlin, Plays, Inc. Boston, 1969. The best and only comprehensive look at the history of puppets in America. Updated from the 1949 edition from Harper, New York.
Jim Henson: The Biography, by Brian Jay Jones, Ballantine, New York. The story of possibly the greatest pioneer of all time in the evolution of puppetry.
The American Puppet: A History of Puppetry in America, directed by Mark Mazzarella, Mazzarella Bros. Productions, Bristol, Connecticut, 2001, 1 hour (?). A video documentary.
Puppet Festival: An Intimate, Backstage Report from Seattle’s Festival of the Millenium, directed by Warner Blake, AngelArmsWorks/pstoo, Snohomish, Washington, 2001, 72 minutes. A video documentary of the 1999 Puppeteers of America conference at the University of Seattle, with interviews and performance samples featuring a wide spectrum of American and international performers.
Puppeteer, by Kathryn Lasky, photographs by Christopher G. Knight, Macmillan, New York, 1985. A nonfiction children’s book that follows puppeteer Paul Vincent Davis in his year‑long development of a production of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. Possibly the most in‑depth and revealing look ever at the practice of American puppetry.
China’s Puppets, by Roberta Helmer Stalberg, China Books, San Francisco, 1984. The art of puppetry flowered with amazing proficiency and diversity in traditional China and has thrived to the present day. This is one of the best of any books on puppets in another culture.
The Chinese Puppet Theatre, by Sergei Obraztsov, Plays, Inc., Boston, 1961. A personal look at Chinese puppetry by a master puppeteer of Russia.
Backstage at Bunraku: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Japan’s Traditional Puppet Theatre, by Barbara C. Adachi, Weatherhill, New York and Tokyo, 1985. An amazing journalistic profile of a professional Japanese puppet theater and its artists.
The Puppet Theatre of Japan, by A. C. Scott, Tuttle, Rutland, Vermont, 1963. A good overview of the history and practice of Bunraku, plus detailed summaries of ten plays.
Burmese Puppets, by Noel F. Singer, Oxford University Press, 1992. A detailed report on the puppets, the plays, and the background mythology.
Voices of the Puppet Masters: The Wayang Golek Theater of Indonesia, by Mimi Herbert, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 2002. Wayang golek is the theater of wooden rod puppets, as opposed to Indonesia’s better-known theater of shadow puppets. This book is a series of interviews with contemporary puppeteers and puppet makers, plus story summaries and gorgeous photos of the puppets.
The Lion King: Pride Rock on Broadway, by Julie Taymor with Alexis Greene, Hyperion, New York, 1997. A beautifully illustrated volume showing the innovative development, design, and use of puppets in director Julie Taymor’s acclaimed Broadway adaptation of the Disney animated film.
No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, by Matt Bacon, Macmillan, New York, 1997. Jim Henson of Muppets fame founded his Creature Shop to build “animatronic” puppets—mechanized puppets manipulated by remote control. This lavishly illustrated book describes the shop’s work on a number of films and TV shows by Henson and others.
Creating 3‑D Animation: The Aardman Book of Filmmaking, by Peter Lord and Brian Sibley, Abrams, New York, 1998. Stop‑motion animation is not commonly linked to puppetry, but it is created with a series of still photos of what are essentially hand-manipulated puppets. Aardman Animations in the U.K. is a world leader in this technique, and this book describes its methods.
The Master Puppeteer, by Katherine Paterson, Crowell, New York, 1975. A historical novel by an award-winning children’s author, focusing on a puppet theater of 18th‑century Japan.