You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood (Aimee Reid)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood, written by Aimee Reid and illustrated by Matt Phelan, a beautiful appreciation of the one and only Fred Rogers.

As a little boy, Freddie was often sick. He had to stay inside, away from the other kids, and it left him lonely and withdrawn. Wishing for someone to talk to, Freddie played with puppets, whom he felt safe expressing his feelings to. As he grows – and is bullied by other children for his soft-spoken nature – he channels his big emotions into other things, like music and learning. Freddie takes to heart lessons from his Grandfather, who encourages him to try new things, and his mother, who instructs him to find hope in dark times by looking for “the helpers”. When he becomes a man, Freddie – now Fred – sees the popularity of television as a way to reach out to kids who may feel lost, confused, or sad like he once did. So he creates a television show that encourages them to learn, to express, and to love themselves just as they are. He calls his audience his “neighbors”, and an icon of kindness and love is born.

Mister Rogers has been receiving a lot of attention in the last few years, and it’s all well-deserved; Fred Rogers was a singular figure who changed the face of children’s entertainment and popular attitudes on childhood development. We’re big fans, so we were excited for this title, and it did not disappoint one bit. The measured, straightforward text evokes Rogers’ own delivery, and educates the reader about fostering curiosity and dealing with big emotions as much as it tells Freddie’s tale. The soft, delicate illustrations are gorgeous, and the use of colors to portray tone and emotion superb. The length is better for older bookworms, but JJ comfortably sat through and was eager to examine the charming, detailed art afterwards. We loved this one: it’s a pitch-perfect ode to a humble hero that continues his legacy, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Xander’s Panda Party (Linda Sue Park)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Xander’s Panda Party, written by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Matt Phelan, a positively delightful story of a friendly panda’s party-planning woes.

Xander the panda has come up with a fantastic idea: a panda party! Only one problem, of course: Xander is the only panda at the zoo. So Xander decides to open up the party to all the bears, and sends invitations to his fellow ursines, but is surprised to find out from Koala that he is not a real bear but a marsupial. Not wanting Koala to be left out, Xander opts to invite all the mammals – but Rhino doesn’t want to go without his BFF bird. So a furred-and-feathered party it will be! Well, until Crocodile points out that reptiles and birds are distant relatives, so could the scaly zoo denizens come as well? With a little help from a salamander named Amanda and a new surprise friend, Xander finds out that the best parties are the ones where no one is excluded based on who or what they are.

Fantastic! This was such a treat. From the phenomenal, jaunty rhyming text to the adorable illustrations of zoo creatures big and small, this was a blast for us. The added bonus is the subtle lesson about inclusiveness, showing that categorizing people can often narrow our experiences and possibilities for friends and fun. The length was great, JJ went wild for the animals, and it was just wonderfully fresh and different story that was a joy to read aloud. A lovely story for party animals of any age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!