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.   

Mister Rogers and Tom Hanks Two Thoughtful Educator-Entertainers

Can’t wait to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Haven’t gone to the movies in years, but this one should be worth a step out into the chilly autumn weather.

When I picked up Parade Magazine the other day, I thought I was looking into the face of Fred Rogers, but it was actually a very well made up Tom Hanks. What better personality to portray the icon of children’s TV programming?

Parade asked Tom to name five things he learned from studying the life of Fred.

Slowing down was the first thing Tom mentioned. Movie making is normally highly frenetic. That’s contrary to what Mister Rogers was about.

Tom commented that the show was indeed designed for kids. It addressed difficult ideas of physics and of human relationships in a manner to which children could relate.

The cardigan sweater, the Converse or Sperry topsider tennis shoes, reflect the fact that Fred was comfortable in his clothes and in his own skin, it seems. He took on difficult issues of race and marital relationships with simplistic, yet poignant words and acts.

I was surprised to learn he was from a wealthy family, though I suppose I shouldn’t have been. Thoughtful individuals with the confidence and freedom to follow their goals find it easier to get their messages across. Think JFK.

Fred’s health tips include:

Rising at five am to a glass of hot cranberry juice – to answer every piece of mail he received from young viewers.

A daily 20 minute swim.

And here’s my favorite take away:

A framed quote from Fred Rogers:

“That which is essential is invisible to the naked eye.”

That’s true in any neighborhood.

Have you seen the movie? Did you watch Mister Rogers as a child?

I haven’t yet seen it and admit I only watched Captain Kangaroo as a kid, though I did see clips of Mister Rogers, and heard of his shows from others.

I have to see this movie at some point, and I plan to look for DVDs of the shows.

Fun Thrift Shop Find – Love these Quaint Little Beatrix Potter? Bunnies – Great Easter Picture . . .

Peter Rabbit is one of my favorite tales, though I’ve suffered from a strong sense of empathy always. I was so sorry Peter was sickened by the berries, even though it was supposed to have taught him a lesson.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book post#4

Do ANY little girls still dream of becoming an everyday housewife, like the one Glen Campbell sang about in the sixties?

I’m certainly a great supporter of the right for females to pursue careers and to receive equal pay for equal work.

But if wives still had the right to stay home without harassment, if it was still possible to make a living on one income . . . it’s my belief that children would grow up with a greater sense of security, better manners, and a degree of common sense.


Make Pancakes: Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Books post #3

Who doesn’t remember their mother making pancakes on dark winter mornings?

My mom always burned some, but for some reason I savored the scent and bitterness of the black crustiness that clung to them. I always had to have milk, and for some reason a slice of bologna with mine, to cut the sweetness of the syrup.

Maybe it’s because we didn’t have sausage with ours. We used a mix. Aunt Jemima I believe, though the syrup was often Log Cabin.

Today, I most often prefer waffles, splurging for real maple syrup on the rare occasions when I enjoy them. Or a berry syrup is even better!

It’ll Grow Back – Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book – post 2

I seem to panic at so many simple things these days. Slippery roads, lost objects I know I’ll find later, the time (it creeps up so quickly) . . .

We all need a reminder that panic never solved anything. By going into “brain freeze” mode, we are so much less likely to spot simple solutions that so often save the day, or a project we thought we’d accidentally deleted but only saved under a different name.

A deep breath and a moment’s rest goes so much further in solving a problem. Try it next time you feel out of control of a situation.

A Wonderful Gift of Nostalgia for Christmas – and some timeless advice for the New Year as well . . .

Who didn’t love Little Golden Books? Such fun stories, and while they didn’t always contain a message as direct as Aesop’s Fables, they carried subtle messages for living well, with grace and good manners.

Over the first weeks of the New Year – or maybe spaced out over a few months, I’ll be tossing in some pages of this great book, with perhaps a few comments of my own.

Hope the whimsy and colorful illustrations take you back to childhood, and that the simple snippets of wisdom help you live a less stressed life today.