The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

The late Fred Rogers is “having a moment” after many decades of advocating for and starring in children’s television. There have been several PBS specials about him, a new movie starring Tom Hanks is now in theaters, and there are biographies like this one.

Rogers was born into a wealthy Philadelphia family; overweight as a child, he was the butt of some bullying and was coddled by his doting mother. From an early age he displayed a love of theater and was a gifted pianist. In fact, he majored in music in college. A later degree made him an ordained Presbyterian minister as well.

In the early days of television, Rogers saw the potential for reaching children in a meaningful way through that medium. He was distressed by the children’s programming that featured slapstick, clowns, and loud, rude behavior. He felt children deserved better.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” had its beginning in the 1950s at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, where Rogers used puppets to deliver his messages. Eventually he returned to the United States and worked in regional public television that morphed into PBS in 1970.

This biography is full of interesting and sometimes unknown details about the life of a man who cared greatly for children and who was deeply in tune with their concerns and needs. Through his show he addressed racism, handicaps, divorce, death, and other topics once considered too difficult for children. The importance of his work is only now being realized and acknowledged.

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Kerry Pettis is a retired elementary school teacher and children’s librarian who has lived in Broomfield since 1975. Reading is her favorite occupation.





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