Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers (Laura Renauld)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers, written by Laura Renauld and illustrated by Brigette Barrager, a loving tribute to the incomparable Fred Rogers’ life and work.

“Hello, neighbor!” the book begins, and welcomes the reader into a familiar television living room set. While we remember Fred Rogers as “America’s favorite television neighbor,” he was once a child; bullied and ignored for his weight and shyness, isolated by childhood illness, and full of very big feelings at a time when children – especially boys – were not encouraged to express them. Yet through music, puppetry, and the support of a few trusted adults like his grandfather McFeely, Fred learned to channel and express his big emotions in positive ways. And Fred grew, he found that kindness and empathy were his strengths, and his confidence grew as people began to see him for the good person he was. It was this talent at expression, empathy, listening, and connecting that led Fred to work in television, where he helped generations of children learn to deal with their own big feelings, and create a kinder world.

As we said in our review of You Are My Friend by Aimee Reid and Matt Phelan, we are big fans of Fred Rogers, and this tender, inspiring, and educational biography does an equally wonderful job at both recounting Rogers’ life while also – as the man himself always sought to do – educating and uplifting its audience. Both books are marvelous, yet distinct; Fred’s Big Feelings makes its mark by covering Rogers’ high school years, notable moments and guests on his show, and his incredible Congressional testimony to save public television. The illustrations are phenomenal, capturing Fred’s emotions and charm from childhood to adulthood, and utilizing a sweet motif of colorful rising hearts to show emotions. The length might be better for slightly older bookworms, though JJ loved it, and was delighted to see her neighbor Mister Rogers on the page once again. A lovely ode that reminds readers that it’s okay to feel, and Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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!