Book Review of The Good Neighbor – The Life and Work of Fred Rogers By Maxwell King

The Good Neighbor, a biography of Fred Rogers, the man in the cardigan who entertained and comforted us as children, reveals the fascinating background and history of this children’s TV pioneer who struggled a bit as a child himself.

An only child who was a bit chubby and absorbed in his own unique interests, it took Fred a while to learn how to fit in, but he eventually became one of the highest achieving citizens of his home town of Latrobe, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  

 As an adult, this man who valued authenticity above all else was a perfectionist regarding his own behavior and performance; sincerely focused upon improving the lives of young persons by viewing the world from their perspective and creating ways of assisting them in processing the challenging events we all face.

The life of this open minded Presbyterian minister and talented pianist who changed his direction to pursue a career in television is thoroughly and touchingly documented by Mr. King in this biography.

The narrative covers formative events from Fred’s childhood, the development of his career following college, his marriage and family, the creation and evolution of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

My takeaway from the story is how closely the real life persona of Fred Rogers comes to my ideal of a truly caring, thoughtful, non-judgmental person.

Perhaps that sounds trite, but Fred Rogers, though his wife stresses, and it seems he would have agreed, had a temper and was not a perfect person, seems one of a rare few of us who truly strived to be understanding and supportive of others from all walks of life.               

Maxwell King, prominent Pittsburgh citizen, former journalist, CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation, seems the perfect person to pen this fitting tribute to a gentleman who made his home town proud by being the best possible neighbor, to those in the Pittsburgh area, near his New York City residence and in the TV neighborhood he created where everyone was welcome.   

Definitive Proof of Reindeer Flight?

Perhaps the definition one holds of actual flight determines the truth of that statement.

But the book Flight of the Reindeer by Robert Sullivan, does offer evidence and testimony by credible individuals that reindeer from a certain locale have some power to soar above the earth’s surface, at least for a short moment, and that the character we know as Santa Claus has historically touched citizens around the globe.

I highly recommend this read that’s a strange mix of confirmed fact and wishful whimsy. Curl up with a real copy, so much better than a digital version, for a mood lifting, faith boosting return to the wonder you felt as a child, this Christmas season.

Book Review of The Mystery at Snowflake Inn

A Boxcar Children Mystery By Gertrude Chandler Warner

About the Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner was a pioneering teacher turned author. Finding books that were both easy and fun for her students to read was a challenge, so she decided to solve the problem herself.

Based on her childhood experiences watching trains pass her home, she wrote an initial story about a fictional Alden family’s children who left their home by stowing away on a boxcar.

Ms. Warner received requests for more stories and the rest, as they say, is history. The Putnam, Connecticut author finished forty-some stories and received many letters relating how much children loved her narratives and the resourceful, independent, New England children who came alive within the pages.

The mystery at Snowflake Inn is the first one I’ve read, and I found it quite heartwarming.

A tale of the clash between tradition and modernism, in this story we find the children and their grandfather staying at a North Country inn. Some tension exists within the inn’s host family and another family of tourists in residence.

The Boxcar children, manage to help draw the entities together. A happy ending is realized following much entertaining drama and light mystery.  A delightful story, in a lovely New England setting.

Book Review of Lawns Into Meadows by Owen Wormser

Mowing season may be nearing an end but soon it will be spring and time to drag out the expensive, high maintenance lawn equipment – to begin that hot, sweaty weekly chore once more.

If you’re one of those who’ve dreamed of trading stark, crew-cut style grass for a lovely meadow of native wildflowers or another option besides being a slave to the land that surrounds your home, check out the book Lawns Into Meadows – Growing a regenerative landscape by Owen Wormser, illustrated by Kristen Thompson.

From getting rid of grass in preparation for new plantings, designing the site, selecting appropriate species for the soil at the location that are hardy in your climatic zone, to cultivation and maintenance, this narrative is a one stop source of information for making your landscape more in tune with nature.

Reducing your carbon footprint is one reason to create a low-maintenance lawn. The addition of free time to your schedule, and the eventual cost savings are two others. But if you’re a nature lover, you won’t require practical reasons for making the change.

Born and raised in rural Maine, author Owen Wormser knows nature. His experience as a landscape architect in Western Massachusetts where he installed hundreds of regenerative lawns makes him the perfect person to write this book. Though written by a professional, the book will be enjoyed by laypeople, just learning about regenerative lawns.

Artist Kristen Thompson has experience in both art and specialize plant culture.

The book even tells us how to educate and make peace with neighbors and “city fathers” who may consider a natural lawn a weed patch rather than the work of natural artistry it really is.

Read this book and change the world. Or at least your neighborhood   

If you’re one of those who’ve dreamed of trading stark, crew-cut style grass for a lovely meadow of native wildflowers or another option besides being a slave to the land that surrounds your home, check out the book Lawns Into Meadows – Growing a regenerative landscape by Owen Wormser, illustrated by Kristen Thompson.

From getting rid of grass in preparation for new plantings, designing the site, selecting appropriate species for the soil at the location that are hardy in your climatic zone, to cultivation and maintenance, this narrative is a one stop source of information for making your landscape more in tune with nature.

Reducing your carbon footprint is one reason to create a low-maintenance lawn. The addition of free time to your schedule, and the eventual cost savings are two others. But if you’re a nature lover, you won’t require practical reasons for making the change.

Born and raised in rural Maine, author Owen Wormser knows nature. His experience as a landscape architect in Western Massachusetts where he installed hundreds of regenerative lawns makes him the perfect person to write this book. Though written by a professional, the book will be enjoyed by laypeople, just learning about regenerative lawns.

Artist Kristen Thompson has experience in both art and specialize plant culture.

The book even tells us how to educate and make peace with neighbors and “city fathers” who may consider a natural lawn a weed patch rather than the work of natural artistry it really is.

Read this book and change the world. Or at least your neighborhood   

Announcing Book Review of “Hitting the Books” by Jenn McKinlay

Love libraries, dogs, romance, suspense, a touch of fictional life threatening danger and mostly happy endings? Visit the latest post on Mystery Book Reviews by Penny Mason.

Book Review of The Perfect Candidate by Peter Stone

The perfect plot, I call this one. A young adult thriller The Perfect Candidate is satisfying to mature readers also.

A recent high school grad, son of a small time landscape designer named Cameron Carter, travels to Washington from California and spends the summer as an intern for a US Rep.

In addition to opening mail and preparing reports, he is selected by a mysterious FBI agent to investigate the rep for whom he works. His queries lead him to discover how Washington changes the character of those who become office holders, and their staff members as well.

He is joined in the investigation by his unlikely girlfriend, daughter of the Mexican Embassador, a fascinating young woman of many talents.

Surprises await Cameron and author Peter Stone’s readers when Cameron returns to California at the story’s conclusion. That’s all I’m saying . . . read for yourself.

Visit Book Review of A Fatal Fiction by Kaitlyn Dunnett on Mystery Book Reviews by Penny Mason

Kaitlyn Dunnett, author of the Liss MacCrimmon series, which I must admit I miss, has captured my interest with her new series, Deadly Edits (A Fatal Fiction is the third installment).

See Mystery Book Reviews by Penny Mason blog for a teaser of this entertaining work of cozy fiction.

View the Latest from the Blog: Mystery Book Reviews by Penny Mason

Visit the review of A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette – a cozy mystery story set in an ice cream shop in the northeastern Ohio snow belt.

Book Review of Kitchen Privileges – a memoir by Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark passed away earlier this year, but lovers of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries will enjoy learning about her life through this memoir, one of the first books I checked out from a local library when it partially reopened following COVID-19 shutdown. It covers the talented author’s life up until the mid-1990s.

Mary worked as a stewardess, and in the business and entertainment worlds, before becoming an author; roles that gave her the necessary experience to write stories based on, as she and other advisors often tell aspiring writers: “what you know”.

It’s a comfort to hear such an iconic author confide the uncertainties she held for years, despite her determination to succeed in the mystery-suspense genre. A woman widowed, with children, she cared for them, held a demanding job, began her fiction career by squeezing in a session of typing at the kitchen table from five a.m. to six forty-five each morning.

Her creative and ambitious management of time inspires me as I strive to complete freelance projects, and works of fiction; various writing projects at once, between the hours of my “regular job”.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer, or a consumer of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries, you’ll enjoy learning more about this lady, with whom I would have loved to lunch, given the chance, in New York, a city I would love to learn to navigate.