Review of You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood

You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood
by Aimee Reid; illus. by Matt Phelan
Primary    Abrams    40 pp.
8/19    978-1-4197-3617-9    $17.99

Following the tradition set in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Reid and Phelan take readers into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe with both truths and invention in this fictionalized (but sourced) story of young Fred Rogers (per the copyright page: “This is a work of fiction…an admiration of Fred Rogers, the man and the artist”). Here we meet a sickly, lonely child, Freddie, who occupies his time with puppets and music, both shown as outlets for expressing his feelings. Although he has few friends his own age growing up, he receives plenty of encouragement from both his grandfather and mother. They teach him, respectively, that he is special and valued, and to “look for people who [are] helping” in order to calm worried feelings. These elements eventually become the hallmarks of Fred Rogers’s television show. Phelan’s ability to depict, without sentimentalizing, the dual vulnerabilities and strengths of children reinforces the calm, straightforward story line. The easy-to-read text is just right for those who may no longer watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood but who would nevertheless appreciate a reassuring encounter with an old friend. Appended with author’s and illustrator’s notes, additional facts about Rogers, and a bibliography.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Betty Carter
Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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