The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers

I saw the documentary on Fred Rogers in the theater when it was out last year and I loved it, it was so wonderfully done and reminded me of many days spent watching the show as a child, I loved Make Believe Land. I picked up this biography by Maxwell King after G had read it and told me how good it was and he was right. Mr. Rogers was a fascinating man, he lived his life very much as you would think from watching the show. That’s not to say he was perfect, because he wasn’t, but he was authentic.

The most fascinating thing about his life that I didn’t know was how absolutely wealthy his family was, he came from a lot of money and it was that background that made it possible for him to do the things he did in life. He took risks and tried things because he didn’t need to earn money to pay the bills. That, along with the philanthropy of his parents, molded and shaped him into the person he became.

But the other part of his story that I really found interesting was how early he created the puppets that made up Make Believe Land. They were from his childhood and had been his friends comforting him during all the time he spent alone. And his children described them as his alter egos, he would use the voices during different situations and the kids knew what that meant, which is odd, but understandable given that they were so important to him during childhood.

Finally the high standards he held himself and his staff and crew to were amazing. It took hours and hours to write a script for one episode, consulting with a child education expert along the way, and it shows. Mr. Rogers understood children in a way most adults don’t and the adoration those kids felt for him, the genuine reaction adults had to him if they met him after growing up with him, that’s amazing. His legacy is a long one and I only hope that in some way kids today get to experience the magic of spending a half hour with him.