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Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers
Author: Laura Renauld
Illustrator: Brigette Barrager
Published January 14th, 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Summary: An inspiring picture book biography about the inimitable Fred Rogers, beloved creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Fred Rogers was a quiet boy with big feelings. Sometimes, he felt scared or lonely; at other times, he was playful and joyous. But when Fred’s feelings felt too big, his Grandfather McFeely knew exactly what to say to make him feel better: I like you just the way you are.

Fred grew up and created Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the television program that would go on to warm the hearts and homes of millions of Americans. But one day, the government threatened to cut funding for public television, including Fred’s show. So, Fred stepped off the set and into a hearing on Capitol Hill to make his feelings known.

In a portrait full of warmth and feeling, Laura Renauld and award-winning illustrator Brigette Barrager tell the story of Mister Rogers: a quiet, compassionate hero whose essential message—that it is okay to have and to express feelings—still resonates today.

Praise: “Renauld’s lively, approachable text welcomes young readers in the same way that Rogers welcomed his young viewers into his living-room set . . . Bright, well-researched, and welcome.”  –Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Review: Fred Rogers just stands for everything that is good in the world. Just look at these banners made by the publisher with quotes from him/the book:

They just fill me with so much joy, and they bring back all of the feelings I had when watching Mister Rogers. And those feelings are exactly what you will get while reading this book. The narrative biography accompanied by the bright text just bring Mister Roger’s story to life. In an interview with Fuse 8, the author said “I had to walk the line between it being recognizable for [adults who are familiar with Mr. Rogers] and easily understandable for [children who were born after the show stopped airing who have no idea who the man in the cardigan is].” I think this is exactly what she did because in addition to my nostalgia, it is a book that Trent has wanted to read multiple times.

Additionally, because of this book, I decided to introduce Trent to Mister Rogers. He knows Daniel Tiger, the cartoon spin-off, so I explained that Mister Rogers was where Daniel Tiger came from. So, I turned on one of my favorite episodes (making crayons!), and Trent was immediately sucked in. He said that he liked that Mister Rogers taught him things and talked nicely to him. YES!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In the same Fuse 8 interview I mentioned above, I loved what the author shared when asked “How do you envision the book being used?,” and I think it is a perfect jumping off point for teachers: “Whether Fred’s Big Feelings is a child’s first encounter with Mister Rogers’ affirming messages, a teacher’s springboard into a discussion about expressing emotions, or a librarian’s selection for a display of American biographies….” Yes to all of these! It is a great picture book biography example and definitely hits on social emotional skills! Also, if you truly want to dive into the book, there are many places that would allow for inquiry projects to learn more about: history of children’s tv, puppeteering, Koko, Yo Yo Ma, Ying Li, Wynton Marsalis, public television, etc. Oh, and you can always watch an episode of the show!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What about Mr. Rogers makes him appealing to the audience?
  • How did Mr. Rogers act towards children that was viewed as a bit different?
  • Why do you think Mr. Rogers was so popular?
  • Why is it important to talk about feelings?
  • How did Mr. Rogers change the future of PBS?
  • How was Mr. Rogers’s show different that what was available to kids?
  • How do the illustrations add to the mood of the text?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mr. Rogers!

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for a copy of the book!**

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2 Responses to Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers by Laura Renauld, Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

  1. Ms. Yingling says:

    This looks great. I am buying Edwards’s Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever because it had a great biography that will be good for NHD projects. Rogers really was a television pioneer!

  2. […] Tuesday: Fred’s Big Feelings by Laura Renauld, Illustrated by Brigette Barrager […]

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