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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers Book Poster Image
Mister Rogers' songs stand up as uplifting, fun poems.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduces kids to poetry. Spotlights different feelings, fears, anxieties, fearful situations, like going to doctor, while respecting kids' emotions, perceptions. One poem deals with feelings of anxiety upon arrival of new baby in the family.

Positive Messages

Positive messages in every poem, including these, for example: "I'm glad the way I am," "It's good to talk / It's good to say the things we feel," "Things are often different / than the way they look," "Somethings are scary and sad," "Good people sometimes do bad things," "You've made this day a special day / By just your being here."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mister Rogers appears at beginning and end of book, as well as mid-book, when he's pictured talking to boy in wheelchair -- the boy with whom he sang "It's You I Like" in memorable moment on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Fred Rogers' voice shines through whole book, as does his utterly positive viewpoint while understanding and accepting kids' dark feelings and moods. Kids and animals pictured model learning, growing, exploring the world and their feelings. 

Violence & Scariness

In one illustration, girl at doctor's office looks scared, anticipating a shot she's about to get. It accompanies a poem called "I Like to Be Told," which includes lines "I like to be told / If it's going to hurt." One reassuring poem tells kids it's common when you're mad to wish something bad will happen to someone or something. It includes the lines "One time I wished that a dragon would come / And burn up my Daddy's big store. / I was angry with him 'cause I wanted to play / And he went out the door to his store right away," and we see a dragon breathing fire on a gas station. It's called "Wishes Don't Make Things Come True." 

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fred Rogers' A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers is a cheerful collection of 75 illustrated poems, originally written as songs for his long-running national public television show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, or his earlier syndicated show, The Children's Corner. Some of the colorful cartoon-like digital illustrations feature settings and puppet characters from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, including Daniel Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, X the Owl, the iconic trolley, and the castle in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Others feature diverse kids in everyday situations like playing, going to the doctor, getting a bee sting, or feeling angry, sad, lonely, or anxious.

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What's the story?

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD features the lyrics of 75 songs originally written for Fred Rogers' children's TV shows, presented here as illustrated poems. A few of the lyrics are credited to Josie Carey, Rogers' collaborator on The Children's Hour from 1953 to 1961. Cartoon-like digital color illustrations include puppet characters from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, including Daniel Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, and X the Owl, as well as Mister Rogers himself. 

Is it any good?

The poems in this fun collection range from silly to sensitive, uplifting to energizing, always keeping kids' feelings center stage. Few readers will remember the music that originally went with each one -- except for a couple of notable exceptions, like the show's theme song, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" -- so kids won't feel like there's something missing. The words stand well on their own, even if the rhyme and meter are occasionally variable within the poem, making it seem more like free verse. 

Author Fred Rogers is so respectful of kids' feelings -- even angry feelings -- and so understanding of their fears and anxieties, that his poems can be read and trusted as tidbits of encouragement and self-esteem boosters. His core message is "I like you just the way you are" and "You're special for just being you," and that sincere belief permeates every page. For kids (or parents) who never watched his TV show, these poems/song lyrics convey a lot of what he was about and why kids enjoyed spending time with him. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the poems in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers. Which ones are your favorites?

  • What does the art add to the poems? Does it make the poems easier to understand? 

  • These poems wre originally written as songs. Do they work fine without the music, or do you feel like something's missing? What's the difference between poetry and song lyrics? Do they follow the same rules? 

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Themes & Topics

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