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.
The creator and host of the 1968 2001 children's television show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a paragon of friendliness, according to this adulatory biography. King, a former Philadelphia Inquirer editor who knew Fred Rogers before his death, paints him as a genius with an uncanny rapport with children sprouted from boyhood struggles with wealthy, smothering parents, bullies, and asthma and a determination to alleviate their angst. Rogers became famous for his show, which blended puppets, songs, conversational lessons on everything from cleaning up messes to weathering divorce, and reassurances that kids are fine the way they are, all based on the latest child-development theories. In King's glowing portrait, Rogers, who was also a Presbyterian minister, was a protector of family values he refused to advertise merchandise to kids as well as an exemplar of "caring, kindness and modesty," who was dubbed "the most Christ-like human being I have ever encountered" by a fellow clergyman. Rogers has been criticized for promoting a culture of televisual passivity and coddling he once retaped a scene in which a pot of popcorn overflowed because he thought the spillage might frighten young viewers but King's hagiography skirts those issues. Readers looking for an incisive examination of Rogers's impact will not find one here.