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The Good Neighbor
Cover of The Good Neighbor
The Good Neighbor
The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television and in the lives of tens of millions of children. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness. Rogers was fiercely devoted to children and to taking their fears, concerns, and questions about the world seriously.

The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon. Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers's personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development. An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.

Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television and in the lives of tens of millions of children. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness. Rogers was fiercely devoted to children and to taking their fears, concerns, and questions about the world seriously.

The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon. Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers's personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development. An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.

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About the Author-
  • Maxwell King is the CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation. After a career in journalism, including eight years as editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, King served as president of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments for nearly a decade.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 11, 2018
    The creator and host of the 1968–2001 children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a paragon of friendliness, according to this adulatory biography. King, a former Philadelphia Inquirer editor who knew Fred Rogers before his death, paints him as a genius with an uncanny rapport with children—sprouted from boyhood struggles with wealthy, smothering parents, bullies, and asthma—and a determination to alleviate their angst. Rogers became famous for his show, which blended puppets, songs, conversational lessons on everything from cleaning up messes to weathering divorce, and reassurances that kids are fine the way they are, all based on the latest child-development theories. In King’s glowing portrait, Rogers, who was also a Presbyterian minister, was a protector of family values—he refused to advertise merchandise to kids—as well as an exemplar of “caring, kindness and modesty,” who was dubbed “the most Christ-like human being I have ever encountered” by a fellow clergyman. Rogers has been criticized for promoting a culture of televisual passivity and coddling—he once retaped a scene in which a pot of popcorn overflowed because he thought the spillage might frighten young viewers—but King’s hagiography skirts those issues. Readers looking for an incisive examination of Rogers’s impact will not find one here.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2018
    "The man who conveyed a Zen-like calm on television saw a psychiatrist for decades." So writes Pittsburgh-based nonprofit CEO King at one of many points in which he emphasizes that the beloved star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a sometimes-contradictory fellow.Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was no saint, given to occasional outbursts of anger and not above a little deception in order to get out of sticky situations, as when he tried to separate himself from a company he effectively owned during a strike. Raised in the hardscrabble Rust Belt, Rogers escaped, going to work as a floor manager in the early days of TV and making a mark with the 1951 production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, "a high point in NBC's creative period." He could have followed a path to an executive role with the network, but he returned to Pittsburgh and pioneered a different kind of TV aimed at children--different because, King writes, it actually respected its audience. Rogers was an emphatic and empathetic Christian who wanted to impart those values to his audience, but by the author's account, he saw the world--or at least the show he built--with the eyes of a child and insisted that those who worked for him do the same. As a former producer noted, whenever anyone was reading aloud onscreen, the camera showed the words and tracked from left to right to mimic the path of the eyes in reading: "All those little tiny details were really important to Fred." Though indifferently written and sometimes scattered, King's book is resolute on the turns Rogers took in order to be sure that his show not be the usual pandering, cereal-selling child's fare, passing up a fortune in the bargain. A bonus: the author's revelation of the role Rogers played in getting Monty Python on the air in America.Serviceable overall, but strong in its demonstration that Rogers was not just a good neighbor and a good friend to children, but also a very good man.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    August 1, 2018

    Former Philadelphia Inquirer editor King reveals Fred Rogers (1928-2003), creator of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, whose guiding principles of his Christian faith--kindness, acceptance, and unconditional love--underpinned every aspect of his professional and personal life. Arranged more or less chronologically, this title traces Rogers's development from an often sickly and overweight child, subjected to childhood bullying and an overprotective mother. His upbringing, while often socially isolating, provided a rich environment for the development of his creativity; he went on to study musical composition and become ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001, was radical for its time, covering war, death, divorce, and other controversial topics honestly and respectfully for children's understanding. Myths about Rogers--that his sweaters covered up tattoos or that he was a Vietnam sniper--are debunked, revealing instead that he was exactly as he appeared. VERDICT Grown-up fans, pop culture enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the history of educational television and child development will be inspired. An excellent and timely addition to most collections. [See "Editors' Fall Picks," p. 26.]--Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2018

    Former Philadelphia Inquirer editor King reveals Fred Rogers (1928-2003), creator of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, whose guiding principles of his Christian faith-kindness, acceptance, and unconditional love-underpinned every aspect of his professional and personal life. Arranged more or less chronologically, this title traces Rogers's development from an often sickly and overweight child, subjected to childhood bullying and an overprotective mother. His upbringing, while often socially isolating, provided a rich environment for the development of his creativity; he went on to study musical composition and become ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001, was radical for its time, covering war, death, divorce, and other controversial topics honestly and respectfully for children's understanding. Myths about Rogers-that his sweaters covered up tattoos or that he was a Vietnam sniper-are debunked, revealing instead that he was exactly as he appeared. VERDICT Grown-up fans, pop culture enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the history of educational television and child development will be inspired. An excellent and timely addition to most collections.-Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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