Hello, Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell (9780823446186)
Journey into the gentle world of Fred Rogers and the neighborhood and community he created on his iconic television show for children. Children are immediately shown the sets for the TV show and then carried back to Fred’s childhood playing the piano and making puppets. When he first saw television, Fred realized that an opportunity was being wasted and that this new media could be a tool for education. He began to work in television as well as studying about children and their needs. His television show launched in 1968 and quickly became embraced by children and families. His show broke many barriers, speaking to children with respect, broaching difficult subjects, and offering real diversity and inclusion in his neighborhood.
There are several picture book about Mister Rogers out this year, but this is the only authorized one. It is also the only one created by Caldecott Medalist Cordell who beautifully captures the spirit of Mister Rogers on the page. From his way of looking directly into the camera and right to the child in the room to his songs, his puppets and much more. Just as with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Cordell’s entire book has a gentle nature to it, offering a place to find safety and acceptance.
Given his skill as an illustrator, it should be no surprise that Cordell’s illustrations are well done. Here they invite readers behind the scenes of creating a TV show. They also capture the lyrics of songs sung on every episode by Mister Rogers. Glimpses of important shows are offered throughout, something that will offer a little thrill to fans of the series.
Gentle, lovely and pure Mister Rogers. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Neal Porter Books.
Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers by Laura Renauld, illustrated by Brigette Barrager (9781534441224)
This picture book biography offers a glimpse into the childhood of Mister Rogers along with a look at how he created his legendary program for children. Fred grew up a shy boy whose asthma kept him indoors. He found a way to express himself through music by playing the piano. In 1951, Fred saw children’s television and realized that he could perhaps use this new medium to explain to them how special they really are. By 1954, Fred had his first TV show on a local community-supported channel. It was done live and mainly improvised. In 1968, the first Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired with Fred Rogers as the host and his message of acceptance, community and compassion.
This bright and cheery look at Mister Rogers and his impact on children’s television lets readers see how a shy and quiet child transformed into a man speaking before Congress and creating a program that will be remembered by all who watched it. The illustrations are full of life with bright colors erupting from the television and inspiring young viewers. Several of Mister Rogers’ most notable episodes are also captured on the page.
Another winning Mister Roger’s picture book that is worth tuning in for. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood by Aimee Reid, illustrated by Matt Phelan (9781419736179)
Celebrate the life of the person who became Mister Rogers, a beloved children’s television creator. As a child, Freddie was often sick and filled his days with puppets. He found it hard to make friends and was bullied sometimes. Freddie found that piano was a way he could express his feelings. His mother also told him to look for people around who were helpers, which made him feel safe and supported. His grandfather allowed Freddie to take risks as a child and know that he was adored. When Fred Rogers created his television show, he incorporated all of these childhood inspirations. His show had lots of helpers who shared their talents, talked about difficult subjects, and always told children that they were valued.
Reid draws clear parallels between Fred Rogers’ childhood experiences and the television show he eventually created. The use of his own childhood as inspiration resonates with the readers, allowing them to better understand the impetus behind the iconic show. Even his own talents with puppetry and piano which were highlighted on the show are shown as ways that he expressed himself in the darker times of growing up.
Phelan’s art is done in watercolor and pencil. Special small moments are created in the images such as Freddie Rogers wearing a cardigan or the simple images of Rogers on the television in a variety of situations.
A book that vibrantly captures one of the pioneers of children’s television. Appropriate for ages 5-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos (InfoSoup)
When Jared Stone discovers that he has terminal brain cancer, he decides to sell his life to the highest bidder on eBay. He gains the attention of a nun, a psychologically-disturbed man of leisure and wealth, a video-game playing teen, and a TV producer. When his posting is pulled down on eBay, only one person is left, the TV producer. So Jared and his family become the focus of a reality TV show and lose their privacy entirely. Jackie, Jared’s 15-year-old daughter, will not willingly participate in the show, figuring out how to avoid the crew and the cameras. But perhaps there is even more that she can do as she starts her own behind-the-scenes YouTube show that tells the truth about the editing and manipulation of her family by the reality show.
Vlahos tells a story of our time, about the dangers of believing in what we see on TV, of the siren call of money and the problems and advantages that come with using the internet for connections. Told from a variety of points of view, including Jared’s tumor, the book has a dark sense of humor throughout. Despite that humor, there is a sense of claustrophobia that pervades the novel as well, one that is built on the invasion of privacy from the TV cameras and then exacerbated by the manipulation and deviousness that surrounds the family.
Still, there is not despair here, even with a terminal illness as a central theme. It is instead a book about fighting back, being true to yourself and finding a way forward against the odds. A large part of that is Jackie, a girl who doesn’t fit in at school and appreciates her privacy. This is her nightmare scenario as the TV cameras roll and it forces her to reach out for help to people who are like her and can aid in fighting back. Through Jackie, we see how the Internet is more than darkness, it is also a source of hope and connection. It is both things at the same time.
A book of complex issues, the fakery of reality TV, and the dual sides of the Internet, this is a riveting read. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.
Reality Boy by A. S. King
Gerald became a reality TV star at age five when his mother brought in a television nanny to help him with his anger issues. He had been putting holes in the walls. He then started crapping around the house, often caught on camera. Now Gerald is seventeen and still struggling with anger in his life. His abusive older sister is back home, living in the basement. His closer sister has gone to college in Scotland and never calls. His mother and father are both entirely ineffective to stop anything. Gerald spends much of his time in Gerland, a world filled with ice cream and candy, where no one is angry or mean. But he can’t live there forever, and he has to return to the real world where he has no friends and people call him The Crapper. It’s all too much sometimes for Gerald to handle, but he has to figure out a way to handle things that doesn’t have him escaping to a fantasy world or beating someone bloody.
I found this book to be entirely gripping. The premise of a boy who is damaged by a reality show that is meant to help (at least on the surface) is very clever. As the layers of the story are pulled back, one discovers who the true problem is. King does this in surprising ways though flashbacks that continue to shock even though one thinks all is revealed. This is a book that will do much to show teens that abuse by siblings and children happens to others.
King has created a wounded hero in Gerald. He is stunted by his family, unable to grow up and unable to control his outbursts. The reader aches for him, roots for him and yes is also frightened by his lack of control. He is a teen caught by his past and unable to see a future. One weakness of the book is the depiction of Gerald’s family. They are not fully developed and the book loses something because of that, given that they are so much of the story of Gerald’s dysfunction.
Gerald is a magnificent character, and the book is compelling and harrowing. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from digital copy received from NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.