A Conversation with Ben Goldstein

Exploring the Creative Odyssey from Broadway to Storybook Adventures and the Future of Education

Photo: Ben Goldstein, the maestro of imagination, reflects on a career that spans Broadway, Sesame Street, and the enchanting pages of children’s literature. His words weave tales that transcend generations, inspiring a shared journey through the realms of creativity.

Ben Goldstein has written, produced, and directed plays, songs, films, and books for children of all ages for Columbia Records, Sesame Street, Scholastic, and many others. His works have appeared on and off Broadway, on television stations throughout the world, and at the Museum of Modern Art.  He is the author of the middle-grade novella, “The Adventures of the World Patrol Kids,” and “The World Patrol Kids’ comic /activity books” He is also the author and illustrator of  “Looice in the Stargarden.” And co-author and illustrator of the books “Looice,” and “Been Dere?” His most recent books are “Rosa and Mee: An Inner-City Cinderella Story,” ‘The Adventures of the World Patrol Kids,” and “The World Patrol Kids Environmental Activity Book.”

Who are your favourite writers? Are there any who aren’t as widely known as they should be, whom you’d recommend in particular?

William Saroyan. His work is not widely read today. Particularly, The Human Comedy.

Other favorite writers are Fyodor Dostoevsky,  Jack London, Doctor Seuss, William Barrie, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, Sophocles, and Homer.

Modern writers include: Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and Amor Towles.

What books and authors have impacted your writing career?

Dr. Seuss, Lewis Carroll. A.A. Milne, Jack London, Fyodor Dostoevsky, William Saroyan.

I was a great fan of Dr. Seuss as a child. I went to the library often and always inquired when the next Dr. Seuss book would be available. The magical aspect of Alice in Wonderland made a big impression. I enjoyed the possibilities of creating whole new worlds. I did not read Winnie-the-Pooh till my late teens. The beautiful simplicity of the writing reminded me of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. The touching heartfelt stories of William Saroyan spoke deeply to me about the human condition and the commonality of emotion. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s plumbing of the depths of personality opened up deeper more adult characters. Jack London’s style and sense of adventure added new dimensions to my sense of timing, plotting, and character.

What kind of reader were you as a child? 

My sister and I went to the library every Saturday from the time I was old enough to see above the librarian’s desk. We would read as many books as we were allowed to take out at a time.

How did you get started writing for children?

I wrote and illustrated my first children’s book and record entitled “Looice” for Columbia Records Children’s Division in 1969, with my collaborator Phillip Namanworth. I managed to get a meeting to pitch the project by promising a Vice President at Columbia Records, that if he didn’t think I had a hit within one minute he could throw me out of his office with no questions asked.

You also worked for Sesame Street?

After my first children’s book people started treating me as an educational expert. I received a Master’s degree in Education and was trained as a kindergarten teacher. After teaching for a couple of years and getting a Master’s degree in film from NYU, I started making films and began writing, producing, and directing songs and films for Sesame Street.

What do you think AI will mean to education?

I think AI will make meaningful educational advancement possible for many children within the next decade. The advent of the personal assistant which is alluded to in my book “Rosa and Mee: An Inner City Cinderella Story with an AI Twist”, anticipates some of these changes to the educational process. I worked as an elementary school computer teacher for ten years and have watched the evolution of computing in our school system since 1973.

What drives your writing? 

I believe the world faces an environmental existential crisis. I also believe we will solve this problem but not without cost. My goal is to help educate the next generation. My series the “World Patrol Kids Comic/Activity Books” and my novella “The Adventures of the World Patrol Kids” are meant to inspire and empower children to learn about their environment and take action to improve it.

You write for both children and adults. Which do you prefer?

I  enjoy writing for all ages. Most of my work for adults consists of plays, musicals, and films. My novella “Rosa and Mee” is written for adults as well as young adults and middle-graders. I think adults will also get a kick out of my picture books “Looice,” “Been Dere?” and “Looice in the Stargarden,” which speak to the child in all of us.

What’s the last great book you read?

Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie. This historic Pulitzer Prize-winning biography reads like a movie and uncovers the roots of today’s Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What books are you planning to read next?

 The Coming Wave, Resurrection Walk, Samuel 1 and Samuel II.

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