Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Erin is Scrumtrulescent’s #CBR4 Review #06: I’m Proud of You by Tim Madigan

Ours is a culture that changes its mind almost daily on things we deem acceptable and those we do not. Your favorite book, movie, television show, or album (do kids still know what these are?) will most likely not be your favorite in another five or ten years. Certainly my tastes have changed a lot from high school to, let’s just say a few years removed from high school, and I think (and would hope) that is true with a lot of people. On the other hand I think the stuff we liked before then, before we ever felt the hint of peer pressure, cliques, and other adolescent nonsense is the stuff that truly endures.  This is the stuff that you still find yourself picking up in a bookstore, or stopping to watch a few minutes when you catch it flipping channels. Unlike being repeatedly (!) photographed in a Limp Bizkit shirt in high school, still owning a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit is not something I will ever look back on and cringe at. And for me, and for probably a lot of other people, Mr. Rogers falls into this same category.

At first I was a bit leery about reading this book. On television he seems, even when I watch reruns of his show today, so damn earnest and kind and I was nervous about somehow tainting that. The title of the book made me think I had nothing to worry about and much to my relief, the Fred Rogers Tim Madigan presents in I’m Proud of You is exactly what one who grew up with him would expect: Kind, patient, and endearingly optimistic. He gets the title of his book from how Rogers would end his letters or emails to him – sometimes abbreviating it “IPOY” and, sometimes, even adding an exclamation point or two for emphasis. That’s not to say that all of Rogers’ letters to Madigan were all nothing but praise and verbal slaps on the back. At the beginning of the book, Madigan’s relationship with his wife is strained and he fears they may get a divorce. This is around the same time he meets Rogers and after several communications back and forth that gloss over the issue, Madigan finally reveals what is going on and pours his heart out. What he gets back is exactly what he needs – advice, optimism, support with nary a word of judgment, just encouragement that things would get better. None of us, nor Madigan, could have asked for anything more. Their friendship continues to develop when Madigan’s brother becomes terminally ill. It is amazing to read these letters and emails from Rogers to Madigan and remind yourself

Being as though Fred Rogers passed away nearly a decade ago from stomach cancer, I knew how this book would end. Thankfully, Madigan does not drag it out or make it more dramatic then it needed to be.  He keeps the same balance that remained throughout his book and limits his knowledge to what went on to what he heard from the man himself and details read subsequently in the news along with the rest of us. While Madigan’s writing isn’t really notable,  he gives us exactly what we need. We get close enough to see that Fred Rogers really was his Mr. Rogers persona and that in real life any of us would be lucky to have had him as a friend … or neighbor.

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