Monday, July 29, 2019

The Good Neighbor:The Life & Work of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King (author), LeVar Burton (narrator)

Oasis Audio, ISBN 9781987146455, October 2018

This is a biography of Fred Rogers, an icon of children's television for decades. Rogers' Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was pioneering children's educational programming, premiering in 1968 and continuing, with a four-year hiatus, until 2001.

Rogers was more than just a tv performer, which I always knew, but also a great deal more than I was aware of. That he was a Presbyterian minister was well-known. Also the fact that he controlled the production of the show pretty completely.

What I didn't know was that he was an accomplished musician. Or that he was a composer and wrote most of the music and lyrics himself. Or that he studied early childhood education with some of the most distinguished experts in the field.

He was dedicated, serious, and knowledgeable, to an extent I hadn't imagined.

What's also interesting is the fact that this quiet, unassuming man, who lived and dressed very modestly and frugally, was from a very wealthy family. That wealth gave him the freedom to do what he thought was right with his tv show, to never commercialize the puppets and other props or advertise directly to children. It limited to some extent the reach of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which never had the ratings or profitability of Sesame Street,but it did have a very broad reach among they young children he most wanted to serve, and it delivered the message he wanted to deliver. That refusal to commercialize often drove people wanting to promote him bananas, but he held to his principles, and to the ability to do what he thought was best with his program.

This is a friendly but not an uncritical biography. Fred Rogers was a good man but no more perfect than the rest of us--and he would have been the first to say so. He did have a temper, and could be very rigid. The narration is by LeVar Burton, who is just a marvelously appropriate choice, and does a wonderful job.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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