It is apparently the year of Mister Rogers, and I’m completely OK with it. While the HBO documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor came out late last year, 2018; the newest Mister Rogers’ movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, arrived in theaters November 22 with Tom Hanks in the role of Mister Rogers. The picture book world is not be left out of a trend, and I’m so grateful it is following this one! I have two new picture books this year celebrating this wonderful man and the legacy of an amazing show he created. First up today is a sweet biography about Rogers from his childhood and some of the inspiration that led him to create his famous show. Take a peek at You Are My Friend by Aimee Reid, pictures by Matt Phelan, 2019.

What is it about?

The book begins with little Freddie Rogers in the spring, a terrible time for him consisting of allergies and various sickness. All of this led to him being alone often, struggling to make friends, and dealing with feelings that he didn’t know how to handle. As he grew, he learned strategies for his feelings through lovely influences in his life like music, his mother, grandfather, and neighbors. He learned to look for helpers, learn from people, speak up and try new things. With the advent of television, Fred longed to change the messages being shown from fighting, to helping. And that’s exactly what he did!

Why I picked it?

We love Mister Rogers in our home! Having both grown up with the show, we’ve passed the few episodes we can find on to our girls. We adore the gentle tone, genuine curiosity, the limitless creativity it encourages, and the many beautiful messages Mister Rogers taught and exhibited. This picture book biography is simple and lovely. While most interviews and articles about Mister Rogers touch only briefly on his childhood, this book gives a stronger introduction to him as a child, using just over 50% of the book to share snippets of his childhood. A man who was already deeply relatable as a grown-up, is shown even more closely as a child and points out hints of why he became who he was and what he taught. It is beautiful to see his creative strategies of puppets and music as a child, knowing how that translated into his show.

My very favorite part of this book is the beautiful, gentle illustrations. Matt Phelan has such a delicate touch to his work and it is a wonderful choice for sharing Mister Rogers. He uses color in a softly dramatic way that hits just the right points in each page. From highlighting Mister Rogers’ amazing sweaters, to illustrating feelings and emotions; Phelan’s work is just lovely.

Who will love this?

The obvious choice for this book is lovers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But while it seems to be a vintage show, it has not disappeared. Many parents continue to share Mister Rogers with their children and especially with these movies about him, his legacy is very much alive and beloved. There is also an entirely new generation of children growing up with Daniel Tiger and this book is a great way to introduce new readers to Daniel’s original creator!

Bonus Gift Pairings

If you are gifting this book to an adult, I definitely recommend pairing it with the documentary from last year: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Perhaps include a box of tissues too! For kids, I’m intrigued by this silly magnetic dress-up Mister Rogers’ set. But I think my favorite idea is this Make Your Own Sock Puppet kit! What a great tool to encourage children’s creativity, while also discussing how to handle feelings.

Stay tuned soon for the second Mister Rogers’ book from this year! Thanks for following along with my favorite books from 2019. I hope they are sparking more ideas for your gift lists this holiday season.