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The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

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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.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published September 4, 2018

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Maxwell King

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,964 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
898 reviews4 followers
December 28, 2018
I grew up watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and suffice it to say, most Americans who turned five by 2001 probably did as well. My husband watched the program to help him with his English when he first came to this country. Mister Rogers is by all accounts an American icon, so, when I saw on my goodreads feed a few months back that a new biography on Fred Rogers would be published this year, I knew that it was a book I just had to read. The Good Neighbor, written by a longtime Rogers acquaintance Maxwell King, allows readers to meet the Fred Rogers from off the air. It was a nostalgic trip, and has become one of the highlights of my reading year.

Fred Rogers grew up as an only child, loved by his parents and grandparents until the age of eleven when his parents adopted a girl who they always wanted. A chubby kid who was often ridiculed by his peers, Rogers turned to a make believe world of puppets to help him get through his childhood. His parents and maternal grandparents had grown wealthy through hard work and achieved their personal American dream, becoming among the wealthiest members of the Latrobe, Pennsylvania community in which they lived. Fred’s mother taught both kindness and philanthropy, giving selflessly to all the needy families in their church and outside community. Fred would accompany his mother to New York City each December on trips to buy gifts for the community as well as for his family. Yet, young Fred was still ridiculed at school, sometimes for his appearance, other times for his wealth and he stood out. His parents kept him home for stretches of a time and it was there that he honed his skills as a puppeteer and musician that would feature on his signature children’s program many decades later.

Fred Rogers eventually graduated from Rollins College, where he also met his future wife Joanne. The couple both majored in music, with Fred also studying French and maintaining a lifelong correspondence with many of his professors from the school. Fred had desired to go into the ministry but he knew his calling was young children. During the 1950s, the few programs marketed toward children were variety hours as the Howdy Doody Show and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. While these hours on the new medium of television were fun and upbeat, Fred Rogers envisioned himself ministering to children and their parents through television. Through connections from his grandfather, Rogers gained an internship at fledgling station NBC in New York where he began his professional career; however, as a young college graduate, he was not given space to be creative and eventually moved to a local station in Pittsburgh where for the next decade he would develop behind the scenes a cutting edge program for children, with help from local early education specialists and ministers. This show named the Fred Rogers Hour was the first of its kind and would endure for decades.

Fred Rogers loved all people just the way they were. That was the message he broadcast on his show, later known as Mister Rogers Neighborhood, for decades. Rogers signature program ran for the better part of four decades. He combined his knowledge of music, puppeteering, early childhood education, and ministry to create a safe place for children from all walks of life. While Rogers’ counterpart Sesame Street was considered fast paced and fun, lasting a whole hour, Rogers developed a theme and ran with it for a half hour for an entire week. He spent hours in writing and meeting with the production team to develop each show, his work often lasting an entire day. Rogers discussed themes as divorce, death of a loved one or pet, childhood disability, and interracial relationships at a time when these topics were not discussed on television in any capacity. Diffusing difficult situations with his puppets in the land of make believe and light hearted songs, Rogers reached the heart of his viewers, making growing up just a little easier for them in the half hour he had with the children each day. While many doubted that Rogers could create a ministry on live television and were reluctant to ordain him, Mister Rogers television persona has endured over multiple generations. It is the safe place for children that at times Fred Rogers himself did not have growing up, which is why it is always a beautiful day in his neighborhood.

During the World Series this year, Fox aired a commercial for Pixel 3 featuring a Fred Rogers voice over having his question how the world works. It was told through the eyes of a child and was a refreshing breath of fresh air in this world we now live in that is connected by media and a twenty four hour news cycle. What would he make of his program being available on platforms as Netflix and YouTube and phones that take pictures of everything in the flash of an eye. There are times when I want to go to Mister Rogers Neighborhood, to visit the bakery, the library, and discuss life with the mail carrier. Earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom during his lifetime, Fred Rogers’ ministry has truly endured, making him an American treasure and an underrated American icon of the 20th century.

5 star read
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
991 reviews2,763 followers
August 30, 2018
I was anxious to read this biography as my older kids really grew up with Mr. Rodgers and I admire him as a person and role model. However the writing in this biography is so mediocre and repetitive that I just can't finish. It's a shame because this could have been so much better.

So DNF for me at 60%
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,632 followers
October 15, 2019
"One of the most radical figures of contemporary history never ran a country or led a battle. . . . He became a legend by wearing a cardigan and taking off his shoes. . . . Rogers was a genius of empathy . . . fearless enough to be kind." - Mary Elizabeth Williams, journalist

Not much needs to be said to introduce a reader of this review to the legendary figure of Fred Rogers. Many of us grew up with him; those who did not tune into him weekday mornings will likely be familiar with this cherished icon of childhood regardless. Whether you enjoyed his programming or not, I think it would be difficult to deny that he was a kind and generous man who made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and parents alike over the many years that his show was broadcast. He was innovative and creative. I didn’t realize he was such a gifted musician! What I knew of ‘Mister Rogers’ before reading this was limited to what I saw on the screen as a child. I happily read this biography and learned so much more. It is a comprehensive examination of his life – both professionally and personally – from his childhood straight through to his grievous death at the age of seventy-five due to his battle with stomach cancer. I walked away from this book with an even greater respect for this most gracious human being.

"He exemplified a life lived by the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ found in some form in almost every religion and philosophy through history. His lesson is as simple and direct as Fred was: Human kindness will always make life better."

Over and over again while reading the story of Fred Rogers’ life, I couldn’t help but think that we desperately need more men and women in our lives with his kind of values - his sense of humility and his desire to make all feel welcome and important no matter what, among many others. I found myself getting a bit teary-eyed! I did not expect this to happen! I think there is such a lack of true humanity and compassion in much of our country and world right now. I feel very troubled for what lies ahead of us, what our children and the next generation have to deal with, if more and more people become less and less attuned to the needs of others. But then I know there are people with values similar to Fred Rogers out there, and I could hear his voice reassuring me with: "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." They are out there somewhere; we just need to seek them out. Thank you for that bit of hope, Mister Rogers.

To fairly assess this book, I have to admit to one major criticism I had while reading – it tended to be repetitive. I think that it would have been to the reader’s benefit had there been a greater condensing of some of the details. So for me the narrative itself was perhaps worthy of 3/3.5 stars while the story of Fred Rogers undoubtedly earned the full 5 stars – I’ll even it out with a 4 star rating. After all, I admire the man from the bottom of my heart.

"When I was a boy I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is not seen. Real strength has to do with helping others." – Fred Rogers
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
May 18, 2021
Fred Rogers, creator, director and actor of Mister Roger's Neighborhood was a truly beloved television figure that was instrumental in shaping millions children's lives.

His premise was simple - look at life as a child would, seek to educate and teach them how to be the best possible person they can be.

And when he first started his show, people definitely gave him a side-eye. It was during the time of Tom & Jerry and other similarly violent children's cartoons.

But Roger's gentle patience and unrelenting persistence eventually won over a nation.

But, what was he like behind the scenes? Was he truly the person he claimed to be on camera? Who was the real Mister Rogers?

After reading this wonderful book...all I have to say is that this man is a gift and his biography is so wholesome it hurts.

I (like many, many others) remember watching PBS as a child and tuning into Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

I still have crystal-clear memories about learning how crayons were made, watching him feed his fish and interact with the Land of Make-Believe.

And it was so dang cool to learn about what Mister Rogers did behind the scenes - that he thought it was important to teach children about common/everyday things, that he always announced when he was feeding his fish because a blind girl wrote to him asking him to tell her so she'd know when the fish were fed and that he put forth so much time and effort into each and every one of his puppets.

This book does a wonderful job of telling us about his life and legacy.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.5k followers
June 10, 2019
While I didn't grow up watching Mr Rogers (sadly!), I've since heard so much about him.

This book makes all the more obvious that he was a decent and good man who wanted to bring positive to everyone.

With that said, I can't say this was an "enjoyable read" but it was interesting to learn more about his life and career.

*I don't give ratings to this type of book.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,719 reviews12.8k followers
January 12, 2019
Hello Neighbour! Many of children and adults alike have come to know the wonders of Fred Rogers during a long career in children’s education television. Maxwell King seeks to revive an interest in Mr. Rogers and his extensive impact that touched the lives of thousands over a career that spanned six decades. The young Fred Rogers was quite introverted and bullied, choosing to hide away in his family’s third floor home, where he had his own puppet theatre. King writes of how Rogers would use his time with puppets to work out many of his emotions, away from those who may judge or mock him. Rogers was an attentive student and did well in school, but had trouble finding his niche in college. It was only when he travelled to Florida that Rogers was able to complete a degree in music that he felt himself completely satisfied, especially since it was there that he met his wife. Returning to Pittsburgh, Rogers discovered the new medium of television and noticed just how horrible it was, lacking anything substantial for children. Thus began Rogers’ lifelong mission, to create children’s programming that would educate and entertain in equal measure. Rogers moved to New York with his new wife to hone his skills as he worked for NBC. He learned some of the tricks of the trade while also discovering many of the pitfalls of trying to develop programming. King explores how Rogers discovered the importance of speaking directly to the child through the television, creating a one-on-one relationship to better connect and deliver his message. When WQED came calling, Rogers returned to Pittsburgh to help the start-up network with some of its early programming. Rogers began honing his need to speak to children at their level, linguistically and emotionally, even when his ideas clashed with those of his collaborators and bosses. Rogers used puppets and wrote many of the songs used on screen to communicate with children and foster a passion. King explores a brief sojourn to Canada for the Rogers family, where Fred worked with the CBC to develop Mr. Rogers, the precursor to his highly successful program. While Rogers did enjoy some aspects of his time in Canada, there were also a number of issues with his young boys that helps push Rogers to return to Pittsburgh, though he had no job prospects. It was only through hard work and dedication that Fred Rogers could sell his Mr. Rogers idea to WQED in an expanded format. Rogers was able to do so, particularly with the backing of eminent child developmental psychologist Dr. Margaret McFarland, as well as Dr. Benjamin Spock and Erik Erikson. Pittsburgh was rife with talent and academic genius in the mid-1960s from which Rogers could easily pluck new and exciting ideas. As King reiterates throughout, Rogers sought their advice when he launched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and throughout much of his time on the air. The show sought to captivate children from 2-5 years of age with simple to digest themes, but never shied away from reality, choosing not to shield children from topics that would affect them, as long as they were presented appropriately. This overarching theme endeared Rogers to many children (and their families) as he pushed to let the child learn in concepts they could understand at a slower pace. King spends chapters exploring the progress that Rogers made with his staple programming, including when he hung up his sneakers and cardigan for a time in the mid-70s. While Rogers took up seminary studies and was an ordained Presbyterian minister, he chose never to instil his Christian views or many of his social sentiments in shows, hosting Christmas specials but adding that there are many ways that people celebrate. From life on the house set to the World of Make-Believe, Fred Rogers was constantly trying to help children through themes—both subtle and blatant—that would help them grow. From death to divorce, machines to music, Fred Rogers brought the word to children, one 28 minute episode at a time, loving each viewer just the way they were. Brilliantly written in ways that touched my heart and brought back so many memories. Maxwell King ignites memories of childhood that bring a warm and fuzzy feeling. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a stroll down memory lane, as well as the reader who wishes to hear all about the inner workings of a great children’s educator.

I could not wait to get my hands on this book. As soon as I started, I knew I would be pulled into my early childhood years, taking back to time sitting around the television. Maxwell King effectively tells the story of Fred Rogers and how he changed the lives of so many children by passionately listening to them and not being afraid to ask others for help. He chose not to take a condescending approach, but advocated for the child from their perspective, rather than using his name recognition to force change upon society. Fred Rogers grew up in wealth, but did not use this to his advantage, choosing instead to amass riches in the joy he brought to others. King writes in such a fluid manner that the reader is soon lost in the narrative and is learning at every flip of the page. King spares no detail in recounting the life events that made Fred Rogers a success, but also chose key events in his life to better understand the arc Rogers made in public broadcasting and the rights of the child to learn without distraction of advertisement, violence, or flashy gimmicks. As King reiterates throughout, Rogers required a slower pace and smooth delivery to show children that their pace was the right pace to learn, but also chose to include follies into his program, underlining the fact that perfection is not part of the learning experience. Maxwell King has done much research, pulling out countless interviews, archived clips of shows, and pieces written about Fred Rogers throughout his life, all to develop this well-rounded biography of a man who quietly took hold on the North American television market from the late 1950s through to 2003. As King writes, wherever Fred Rogers went, he was swarmed by happy toddlers and young children. He was happy to stop and talk to these children, be it in his own voice or that of one of the many puppets he brought to life on the show. Do stop in the next time you are in the Neighborhood or take Trolley if you feel you need a little extra direction. I know I will!

Kudos, Mr. King, for this sensational piece. I found myself tearing up numerous times as I remembered moments from my childhood that were shaped by Fred Rogers. He will be missed, but your book breathed new and exhilarating life into him.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,293 reviews2,961 followers
November 6, 2018
I recently saw the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? and absolutely loved it. Like weeping in the middle of a crowded theater type of love which kinda caught me off guard because although I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood growing up, it wasn't exactly must see tv for me. But learning more about this man and how much good he put into the world, just really brought up all these emotions in me. While the film focused primarily on the tv show, this book is the definitive Fred Rogers biography to date. I was happy to learn more about his childhood and what events and people helped shape him into such a special man. And yes, I teared up reading this book as well.

This is definitely a very thorough biography as it explores his childhood, education, the family he raised with his wife, and of course his career. There were two things that really stood out to me in particular. The first being he came from a family that was very wealthy but incredibly generous to friends, employees, and other people in need. For sure being raised in that type of environment ended up having a positive effect on him and the type of man he became. The second thing I found interesting in the book was the talk about Sesame Street. I guess I never really had thought about it before how the two shows had very different styles and how because Sesame Street is marketed in a different way, it probably will have the more enduring legacy.

Overall, I was very pleased with this biography. As is mentioned in the book, you aren't going to find any dirt on Fred. I think the most that can be said about him is he was passionate about his work which might have led to some disagreements. He really was just a good man. A man who might have come across as very simple but put a tremendous amount of effort and thought into everything he did. As he is famous for saying, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.". Thank you Mr. Rogers for always being a helper!
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,002 reviews36k followers
September 5, 2019
Paul says he’s not even married to me...haha...
Because I’m sooo mean!
But... he didn’t exactly like this book either.
We’ve been listening to the audiobook together and I quit....I can’t take anymore.

I’ve had enough talk about how Fred’s wealthy family was not pretentious. It’s pretty easy not to be pretentious when you have a cook, a driver, a housekeeper, and a 2nd house in nantucket.

Yep...Fred’s family were good- kind- humble -down to earth good neighborhoods!
I get it! Yippy!
Really... wonderful and all that jazz....
I wasn’t a fan of the show. I never sat still to watch an entire show. It looked so flat and boring....
My kids didn’t tune in to Mr. Sweater man either ....
However... Fred Rogers made a great difference to many....
He was kind - and deeply respectful of children.
Great... I mean it: TERRIFIC!
Doesn’t mean I have to enjoy the book...
I can’t tell you how bored I was!

I’ll go see Tommy Hanks - my High School boyfriend ... haha....play the role. It’s gotta be better than this book!

Profile Image for Librariann.
1,440 reviews45 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
June 21, 2018
I really want to like this but IT NEEDS AN EDITOR SO BAD. I do not need to hear six times, in six different contexts, about how Fred stayed in an air conditioned room all summer one summer because his asthma was so bad.

I'm still reading it, because I want to know more. But I really hope there's a little more editing prior to the actual publication date....OR IS THIS JUST HOW AVERAGE ADULT NONFICTION READS? I have been spoiled by the likes of the 57 Bus and Vincent and Theo.
Profile Image for Felicia.
47 reviews59 followers
October 12, 2018
First things first, I listened to the audiobook- which is narrated by LaVar Burton (of Reading Rainbow fame) so that was immediately exciting.

Second my biggest complaint has less to do with Roger’s story and more to do with the author of this story. The book is needlessly repetitive, almost as if the author wanted the book to be longer than it needed to be. Several times as the listener I am told the SAME THING. I found this disappointing because it took away from the narrative of Fred Rogers life. The drawn out descriptions made it hard to enjoy the rich life of a man who played such an important part in the lives of so many people.

After listening for ten hours, I can’t imagine how I would have felt reading the same thing over again.

That aside, this book was full of information I hadn’t known before. Rogers journey into the homes and hearts of so many children is one that was full of drive and originality. The man created a bond between many generations in all different kinds of families. His need for inclusive education of children is one that is commendable.

I firmly believe that if more people were life Fred Rogers we would live in a very different world.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,727 reviews6,662 followers
September 24, 2018
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,” Rogers had told his young viewers, “my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
Yes, there are. Fred Rogers was proof of that. A man born with privileged demographics along with considerable family wealth, Rogers was free to explore any calling that spoke to him. What a gift to the world that he chose to use this incredible opportunity to teach, help and empower. Let Mister Rogers be an example to us all.

In The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, author Maxwell King did an enormous amount of research to provide a well-rounded biography. It not only showcases Rogers's beautiful human qualities, but also his family history, his educational pursuits and what inspired them, the business end of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and other televised programs, examples of how his sensitivity was both a blessing and curse, and even a section where rumors are debunked about Rogers, such as tattoo sleeves, military service, etc.

Admittedly, when I saw the audiobook was over 14 hours long, I almost skipped over this title, but later that day I had an encounter with a person in which the above quote was referenced and I took it as a sign. His words and example still make an impact, and learning about this man left me feeling nostalgic and humbled.

“What a difference one person can make in the life of another.”

**Bonus: Audiobook narrated by LeVar Burton!

My favorite quote:
“Whenever a great tragedy strikes – war, famine, mass shootings, or even an outbreak of populist rage – millions of people turn to Fred's messages about life. Then the web is filled with his words and images. With fascinating frequency, his written messages and video clips surge across the internet, reaching hundreds of thousands of people who, confronted with a tough issue or an ominous development, open themselves to Rogers's messages of quiet contemplation, of simplicity, of active listening and the practice of human kindness.”

Profile Image for Beth.
748 reviews40 followers
January 6, 2019
What a disappointment.
5 stars for the subject, 1 star for the writing. I tried so hard, but did not finish at 40%.

This was so repetitive it's not even funny. It was like a high school term paper that required 1000 words but the student only needed 500 words. So we get filler. Repeatedly. Sometimes the same statement is repeated 3 times in a single chapter with slightly different wording. Great, yeah we know Fred spent a summer in an air conditioned room because of his asthma. I don't need to hear it 4 more times.

Rather than having 250 pages of quality material, our author padded this book with unnecessary repetitive drivel to make it 400 pages. I'm looking at you editors.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,744 reviews123 followers
September 18, 2018
Another outstanding biography (the short list also includes Matthew Polly's Bruce Lee: A Life and Jonathan Eig's Ali: A Life, in my opinion) published since last autumn, King's The Good Neighbor is a double-barreled salvo in presenting the detailed life story of TV host Fred Rogers AND a certain nostalgia factor for a large but relevant audience from North America. A nice, heartwarming refrain throughout the book was that Rogers was a 'what you see is what you get'-type of man -- devout, well-meaning, caring, tolerant / accepting, and absolutely devoted to the development of children.

And yet I don't want to make it sound like a boring or predictable read. The man had his quirks, too and was known to be strict, firm, and particular in his disciplined work habits. However, that just makes him all the more human. Another pleasant and oft-mentioned characteristic was his sense of humor (sometimes also referred to as whimsy), which was demonstrated in stories about practical jokes on the set and his unexpected enjoyment of a certain legendary British TV comedy show.

A great moment (also noted by my GR friend Jen in her wonderful review) in the book - which is available for viewing on YouTube - is Roger's thoughtful and astute testimony before a senate sub-committee in 1969. The U.S. government was considering slashing the funding for then-fledgling public TV stations. The senator in charge (a gruff but experienced politician tasked by the president with a difficult job, so it would be unfair to simply label him as a villain) is obviously skeptical and even dismissive at first. Rogers simply but powerfully explains the intent and content of his TV show for children. The senator's change of heart and final response would make even the Grinch smile.

I admit a certain amount of bias - since I was one of those viewers in the late 70's; in those pre-cable days Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (and Sesame Street) were the shows to watch as a kid - but it was great to learn that our 'TV neighbor' was a good man who first-and-foremost cared about educating / entertaining us in a positive way. The world could use more people like him.
Profile Image for Bkwmlee.
384 reviews252 followers
December 22, 2018
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, won’t you be mine, won’t you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor?

Just hearing this opening line brings back so many wonderful memories for me! Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was one of the shows I used to watch almost religiously back as a child growing up in the 1980s. Even though I moved on to other shows when I became an adult, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood had left such an impression on me that many of the “lessons” I had learned from the show continue to stay with me even now. I loved so many aspects of the show back then: the songs, the puppets, the adventures, and of course, the gentle soul with the soothing voice who brought everything together for us day in and day out – yes, Fred Rogers was my childhood hero, the father figure I wish I’d had.

Given the above, it should come as no surprise that when I found out a few months ago about a new biography being published about Fred Rogers’s life and his iconic show, I just knew that this was a book I absolutely had to read. I was disappointed when I wasn’t able to get my hands on an advance copy prior to publication, but luckily, my library came through for me and I was finally able to secure a copy to read (though only after having to wait several weeks on the “hold” list). Reading this book was quite an emotional experience for me, as it not only brought back many fond memories of the show, it also gave me so much insight into the life of Fred Rogers and the one-of-a-kind person he was. Prior to reading this biography, I had no idea how much effort had gone into producing his show and how every aspect of the production – from the dialogue to the music to the puppetry, even such things as the length of each episode -- was meticulously thought out. What stood out for me the most though was how genuinely Mister Rogers cared about children and how devoted he was to their education and overall well-being. One of the things that made Fred Rogers truly unique, especially for someone in the world of showbiz, was the fact that “what you saw was what you got” – meaning that the gentle, kind fatherly figure you saw on the TV screen, he was the exact same way in real life. As Mister Rogers had said in previous interviews, he was neither an actor nor an entertainer, he was always just being himself. It’s interesting that back then, his view that children should be respected for who they are and their thoughts and feelings should be respected as well, was actually considered “radical” thought, with some critics likening it to “coddling” children to the point of spoiling them, yet later on, as thoughts on child development evolved and progressed, his viewpoint was actually welcomed, encouraged and even held up as the “gold” standard for how to treat children.

I will be honest in saying that I find it impossible to sum up the legacy of Fred Rogers and how much he meant to those of us who grew up watching his show, in one biography about his life, regardless of how substantive or thorough that biography is -- which is why, for me, this review is so hard to write because I know I will never be able to give it the justice it deserves. In that sense, this book is a breath of fresh air in that, given the negativity-filled world we live in today, it is a nostalgic reprieve and a reminder of what it means to be a genuinely humble, honest, kind person who truly cared about others. As far as “celebrity” biographies go, this one I would definitely recommend, not because it was particularly well-written (in fact, the writing was actually the worse part of this book to be honest – the other reviews that mentioned the repetitiveness of the writing were actually spot-on). Rather, this book should be read for its subject matter and, perhaps, as a rare positive boost given the current world we live in today.
Profile Image for Karina.
819 reviews
June 2, 2021
"Please, think of the children first. If you ever have anything to do with their entertainment, their food, their toys, their custody, their day care, their health, their education--please listen to the children, learn about them, learn from them." (PG. 242)

"You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are." (PART IV)

"It's really quite simple: The man you saw on the show, that's who he was. His respect and passion for children was real.... What he out out to the world was so important to us. It struck a real note in our hearts and our souls. Everything he set out to do, he set out to do the best way possible. There's a poem he liked called 'Be the Best of What You Are.' If you're a janitor, be the best janitor--or whoever you are. Whatever you do, do it the best way you know how." (PGS. 210-211)

What a good man this guy was. Heart of gold, nothing creepy ever surfaced about him which restores my faith in humanity. He genuinely wanted the best for children and every morning that he woke up until the time he went to bed that was his mission in life. I shed a few tears while reading this book. I never actually paid attention to his show due to my parents never really ever being concerned about what we watched but I wish I could have paid more attention.

He grew up rich. Money was never an issue. His family basically owned Latrobe, Pennsylvania but he was never snotty about it. His family was very giving to the community. He was a bullied chubby kid and it stuck with him negatively throughout his life the way people treated him. He was no sissy but that was what he was called not being "masculine" enough. He followed his dreams and lived a very faithful Christian life, a true Christian, not a mask of it. He accepted and loved everyone just the way they were. It was interesting to me that he got a bachelor's degree in divinity from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was also a minister at one point. He was truly special.

He fought for children's programming to be pure and simple in understanding, never to target commercials to children. It's so sad to see all his hard work being undone by greed and technology. I wonder how he would have dealt with it now. One can only wonder...

The biographer, Maxwell King, did a great job in this book but during the middle it got too repetitive and almost boring. I am glad I finished it. I could quote Rogers forever because I have many of his beliefs. I hope people, especially parents, will eventually get a chance to read this book in better understanding Fred Rogers and maybe change something for the better in their parenting styles. I have already made TV or tablets only 1 hour per day (we'll see if I cave in for more. Gulp) I realize that sometimes I am the problem. Snappy mommy when they are usually doing "kid" things. Good eye opener.
Profile Image for Jen .
2,546 reviews27 followers
September 3, 2018
Ok, this book may only "speak" to those from the generations of children in America and Canada who watched Mr. Rogers on TV, but while it will tug on our nostalgia, it will also speak to those today who are tired of negativity everywhere we turn.

Mr. Rogers was a breath of fresh air in the past and he is still that today. I am SO GLAD that this wasn't a salacious tell-all about Mr. Rogers. He really WAS the person who sang to his tv neighbors every episode. He really WAS that loving and giving and amazing, and he really thought that others had those attributes, or that they could grow and learn them, too. He was also humble, which makes him awesome instead of full of himself.

I think it almost goes without saying that the world is going to heck in a hand basket, or the media wants us to think so, so this book by explaining an amazing man and how he truly CARED and slowed things down is such a huge boost.

I keep saying I want to make a tv station that plays only puppies, kittens, the occasional human baby and people HELPING each other. I want rainbows and flowers with butterflies and happy people LOVING and HELPING one another. Seriously, why ELSE would MILLIONS of people go online to look at videos of adorable kitties and puppies unless for a much needed boost of happiness/dopamine? Why is it so needed? Turn on the news/tv.

This book is that boost. It gives me hope for humanity.

It references when Mr. Rogers spoke to a Congressional Committee, to plead that public television wouldn't get a budget cut. The video starts and it's like, "Huh, he's kinda goofy looking and he sounds really dopey." By the end of it? Ugly crying, "I will give you ALL the money FOR THE CHILDREN!!"

Seriously, YouTube this clip, it's like seven minutes long. Completely worth your time. If you know Mr. Rogers, this will cement your love for him. If you don't know him, but the end of this clip, you will want to. And when you want to, pick up this book and learn about him. Then look up his Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood show. PRICELESS!

The book itself was somewhat repetitive in places, but the subject matter completely carried it. Recommended for all, especially if you need to have your hope in humanity restored.

5, YES I want to be your Neighbor, stars!

My thanks to NetGalley and Abrams Press for an eARC copy of this book to read and review.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.G..
164 reviews
January 11, 2019
An American icon in children's television programming, Fred Rogers is portrayed in Maxwell King's book The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers as the same genuine person in his "real life" as the public saw him on TV. We learn of the privileged background, the family ethic of hard work and generosity, the influence of his maternal grandparents, the childhood issues of loneliness as an only child (until his parents adopted his sister when he was about 11 years old,) shyness, and feelings of not fitting in during his school days, and the guidance of his devoted mother. Religion, music, and his imagination were important elements that shaped the young boy. As an adult, his strong beliefs in the value of each individual child as unique and special were developed through his readings of child development studies and through consulting with child development experts throughout his career. His passion was to utilize that knowledge to transform TV programs aimed at children. His TV demeanor, aimed directly to the viewing child, was slow-paced, calm, and soft-spoken, and his topics were relatable to the child on a personal level as he expressed simply, "I like you just the way you are." Through his make believe world with the use of music and puppets he presented topics relating to the child's self esteem, concerns, and fears in an imaginary world where he encouraged the expression of those concerns and then transitioned back to the real world where he explained in the child's language that their fears and feelings are real and should be talked about with a caring loved one. He not only focused on the child's psyche but also included cognitive learning experiences of the world around them: life and death, disabilities, ethnic and racial diversity, divorce, and people in the neighborhood (musicians, policeman, baker, pizza making, dancers,) and the importance of being a responsible person. His empathy. kindness, and respect were obvious to children and their parents, and his approach transformed educational TV for children.

The author's story was comprehensive but the book seemed overly long with many repetitions explaining how Fred Rogers' beliefs were formed and enacted ... but an inspiring read. There was only ONE Fred Rogers who at times doubted his contribution to children but in the end was reconciled he did his best with what God had given him.
Profile Image for Christina Knowles.
Author 2 books22 followers
November 7, 2018
I’ve never read a more boring biography. Fred Rogers was a wonderful, generous, and moral man born into privilege, and he paid it forward. Now you don’t have to read it. Zero conflict. Zero percent interesting and highly repetitive. It could have been thirty pages long without leaving anything out.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,340 reviews525 followers
October 16, 2018
Without a doubt, Fred Rogers is an icon in the worlds of both children's television and child development. It was his passion to always do what is best for the children that really shines through in this comprehensive biography. Having seen the documentary that was released this year before reading the book was helpful to me in establishing a framework for processing information in this book. Many might find the documentary to be more helpful as this bio runs a bit on the long side and tends to be repetitious.
Profile Image for Stacie C.
332 reviews63 followers
September 9, 2018
What memories do I have of Fred Rogers? I remember his show and I remember puppets but I don’t remember much of the man. Regardless I was intrigued by this biography and the concept of learning more about this man, whose songs I remember but whose life I do not. I feel like everyone remembers the man in the cardigan but no one knew him. After reading this book I feel like I know him and more than that, I miss him. I wish that I had incorporated him into my child’s life at a young age. I wish I could remember the lessons he taught and the make belief neighborhood he created.

King does an amazing job letting readers into the life of a man who cherished children and was so invested in their education. From his family, to his upbringing, to his passions and drives this book puts everything together and really emphasizes the things that made Fred Rogers the man he was. I would have never even considered the amount of work that went into his show. The thoughts, the care, the consideration, the consultation. Every single bit of these shows was extremely geared towards the thought processes of children. The way the people that were apart of Rogers’s life talk about him and his work ethic is so loving and just genuine. Rogers could be difficult to work with but that wasn’t because of himself, it was because he was desperate to educate children and for him it had to be right.

Fred Rogers worked in children’s television for decades with the most memorable show being “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” There were moments while reading this book when I would look for clips of his show. Times when I would just want to hear him sing the opening song or hear him speak. I would sit back and imagine what the world would be like if we still had a man like Rogers’s behind the screen talking straight to children and relating with parents. I highly recommend this book. I'm giving this 5 out of 5 stars. It is well written, informative and emotional. I’m walking away from this missing a man I have never met and yet feeling joy about the work that he has done. He was such a good neighbor.
Profile Image for Monnie.
1,401 reviews763 followers
December 24, 2018
Our two children, born nearly five years apart in the 1960s, were dedicated "Sesame Street" and "Electric Company" kids. But that was long enough ago that every once in a while they'd catch an episode or two of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" as well. And while I, too, tended to prefer the blinkin' lights, in-your-face constant action of those first two, I admit that the calmness and serenity that Fred Rogers brought to his show was very welcome. Whether or not it was our favorite, though, there's no denying the positive impact that Rogers and his show had on millions of children. For that reason alone, I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of this book.

Through interviews and tons of other records, the author does an outstanding job of pulling together an inside look not only at the development of the TV shows in which Rogers was involved (yes, there's more than one), but also of the man himself. I already knew he was from an hour or so across "my" Ohio border in Pennsylvania, for instance, but I didn't know he was an only child of very wealthy parents, nor that his trademark cardigan idea came because his mother knitted him a new one every year for decades. I was also impressed to learn that he earned a degree in music and has written something like 200 songs and, most surprisingly, 14 operas.

For the record, there's a substantial amount of information here about people who played instrumental roles in Rogers's life - sometimes more than I really cared to know - and there's a fair amount of repetition throughout the book. But overall, it's an interesting, well-laid-out portrait of a man who to me, at least, is an educational television icon. Thanks for the memories!
Profile Image for Jen.
558 reviews13 followers
July 13, 2018
Subject: 5 stars
Writing: 3 stars

When I saw the ARC of this title pop up in Edelweiss, I almost broke my finger hitting the download button, since I had just been talking to my husband about how there weren't any really great biographies of Mister Rogers out there. Unfortunately . . . that might still be true.

I feel like the book accomplished what a biography should, in that I now know much more than I did about how Mister Rogers came to be Mister Rogers -- his life and family and the development of his theories of early childhood education and psychology. However, the writing was very repetitive, sometimes with entire paragraphs repeated verbatim multiple times, so that I found myself getting really frustrated and occasionally skimming. I did finish, but at times it felt like a struggle.

I'm holding out hope that maybe this is just because it's an ARC and these problems will be edited out before it's published.

Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 29 books5,627 followers
August 28, 2019
I feel like the world would benefit from watching more Mister Rogers episodes. I certainly think I might have! I did watch it quite a bit, but was never one of the devotees who considered themselves one of his "neighbors." But he was a quiet genius, and inspiring man, and he said and did some wonderful things. Part of his genius was that he made it seem so effortless: by talking so slowly and simply to children, the more cynical among us missed the fact that he was helping kids deal with tough and complex issues. This book is a very informative look at his early years and his career, but I feel like it skimped a little on his family life as adult. Although the family had plenty of input into the book, and I'm sure that they wish to remain private, there are extensive memories and quotes from his sister and friends about his childhood, and one thin chapter with any memories and quotes from his two sons.
Profile Image for Amanda Hupe.
953 reviews58 followers
November 1, 2019
I think that The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King is a great way to kick off November. It is a month of being grateful, cherishing our loved ones, and being thankful for everything we have in our lives as we head into the craziness of the holiday season. This book goes through the life and work of the incredible Fred Rogers, whom we all know as Mr. Rogers, from the TV show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. He was someone who was able to connect and empathize with everyone he met, especially children. He dedicated his life to making children feel safe and comforted. The book starts off when Fred was just a child. He came from a wealthy family and was an only child. He also experienced bullying as a child and really focused on his love for music. He loved playing the piano and eventually, it became a major part of his life. The book chronicles meeting his wife, his life as a father, and his failures and successes in the TV business.

“When I was a boy I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power, but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what not is seen. Real strength has to do with helping others.” -Fred Rogers

The Good Neighbor, page 323
Well, I am pretty grateful that no one was around while I was reading this book. There were tears…lots of tears. Everyone hears stories about the legendary Fred Rogers. Many think that he was too good to be true. Did the man have any faults? Of course, he did. He is only human, but he recognized his faults. He worked so hard to be selfless, to help those that needed help. He is the true definition of what it means to be a Christian. In fact, in the book, those who knew him said he was “Christ-like.” He didn’t judge. He supported everyone around him. He embraced all religions and supported those who had different beliefs than his own. He knew how to love—how to truly love someone. There was a scene where Fred Rogers went out to dinner at a place where he wouldn’t be approached, so he could have a quiet dinner. A little boy, whom he did not know, approached him and said, “my dog died.” Fred immediately drops to his knees and talks with the little boy, but mostly listens as the child voices his sadness, concerns, and anxiety. When Fred Rogers was on Oprah, he didn’t want children in the audience because he knew he would be distracted by them and would rather talk to them.

I was very interested in the sections that described him as a father. As parents we all make mistakes. I was wondering if he did as well. He went through what every parent goes through. There is one scene that got me. The author described when Fred Rogers had to have surgery. It was a hernia surgery. The doctors took his son to the room and his son cried and reached out to him, causing Fred to be extremely upset and emotional. I can relate to this first hand since my son has the same surgery and almost the exact same thing happened. I will never forget my son reaching out for me, screaming in terror. I had to pause reading that book to collect my emotions.

Some parts of the story are a little slow, as it goes into the complexities of his job and how he worked with those around him. But overall, I could not put this book down. Even in a biography, Fred Rogers is engaging. There were some scenes that made me question my ability as a parent, knowing I could never live up to the Fred Rogers standard. However, he is definitely inspiring and I learned so much, not just about Fred Rogers, but of kindness, children, and what it means to be a good person. I really recommend this read. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.
1,587 reviews86 followers
October 5, 2019
This biography of Fred Rogers is unconditionally laudatory. The focus is on his ground-breaking work in children’s television. Although we learn a bit of the personal life of Rogers as a child, we learn almost nothing of him as a husband and father. I would have liked more insight into the private face of this man. I also wish the editor had eliminated the relentless repetition of details about Rogers.
Profile Image for Abby Johnson.
3,373 reviews313 followers
October 12, 2018
What a great book and a terrific audio recording. Pair LeVar Burton with Mr. Rogers and it's nostalgiafest 2018 (in a good way!). If you grew up watching Mr. Rogers, this is a must read.
139 reviews3 followers
February 23, 2019
My kids were not big fans of Mr. Rogers, but I always admired the man. I still do after reading this book, which really makes him sound larger than life. I found out some things about him that I didn't know before, but the book was way too long. It was repetitive in spots, I found myself skimming some of it. Also, it seemed to me that the author was just a little snarky in spots, perhaps trying to give it a more balanced read. It just annoyed me. For instance, why bring up the question of Mr. Rogers' sexuality if all you were going to say was that he never broke his marriage vows? Why even address the issue at all. Also, why point out that he like to swim naked? Who cares? And when discussing the months before he passed away why refer to his wife and friend as his friends? Doesn't she deserve to be called his spouse? Maybe I was overanalyzing, but it seems like Mr. King has some agenda that he was going for in including these and other small things in the book.
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