An appreciative and informative chapter of TV history.

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SUNNY DAYS

THE CHILDREN'S TELEVISION REVOLUTION THAT CHANGED AMERICA

A cultural history of how children’s TV, once criticized for banal programming, changed dramatically in the 1960s.

In 1961, the chairman of the FCC asked, “Is there no room on television to teach, to inform, to uplift, to stretch, to enlarge the capacities of our children?” It was a question that Joan Ganz Cooney and Fred Rogers answered with a resounding yes. Each found jobs in newly established educational-TV stations, and, with determination and imagination, developed groundbreaking children’s shows: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which made its national debut in February 1968; and Sesame Street, which debuted in November 1969, attracting an audience of some 2 million households. Drawing on news articles, oral histories, and the archives of the Children’s Television Workshop, Fred Rogers Center, and Jim Henson Company, longtime Vanity Fair contributor Kamp offers a brisk, lively account of the challenges faced by Cooney and Rogers in realizing their shows, the criticism that they incited, and the many programs that emulated their success, such as The Electric Company, Free to Be…You and Me, and ZOOM. Although different in tone—“slow pace versus fast, small cast versus large, low production values versus high”—both Mister Rogers and Sesame Street were shaped by findings in developmental psychology and pedagogy. Rogers saw himself as “the child’s adult friend” who “would introduce experiences of all kinds” and help children to articulate their feelings. Cooney and her Sesame Street team aimed to engage young children—especially those living in the inner city—in learning, with a multicultural, interracial cast. Getting Jim Henson on board “was a coup,” Kamp acknowledges. “The Muppets conferred upon the nascent show a visual and spiritual identity that would set it apart from other children’s programming: “furrier, featherier, weirder, cleverer.” Writing about the evolution of Sesame Street, the author reports some surprising blowback from feminists who objected to its portrayal of women and from viewers who complained “of both racism and reverse racism.” But nothing stopped the show’s impact on children’s culture. Questlove provides the foreword.

An appreciative and informative chapter of TV history.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3780-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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