‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’: Getting to Know Mister Rogers the Poet

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Mister Rogers was a staple of my childhood. His Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood program—with its Neighborhood of Make-Believe, friendly songs, and, of course, Picture Picture—was a big part of the small collection of completely wholesome children’s fare on television in the 1970s. Mister Rogers cared about, accepted, and celebrated children everywhere, just as they were. He reminded us that everyone has something special about them, something to be proud of. He’s on my short list of people I feel comfortable calling a personal hero.

Celebrations of his life and his television efforts have ramped up lately, and now a brand new book joins in: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers. The book is filled with the lyrics to the songs he wrote and sang on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood over the years. Parents and kids alike will recognize many from the show, such as “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “It’s You I Like,” and “It’s Such a Good Feeling.”

The book includes illustrations by Luke Flowers, who has created fun depictions of Mister Rogers himself, plus Trolley, Picture Picture, the stop light, fish tank, and all the characters and scenes in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. He’s also illustrated countless children at play, learning to tie their shoes, and dealing with things like pain and being scared. There are plenty of animals and inanimate objects illustrated as well. As you read through the book, you’ll remember these songs from your own childhood, and the visuals bring back all the stories from the episodes.

The end of the book includes an index, which makes it easier to find songs that cover certain topics (such as patience and fears), and a short biography of Fred McFeely Rogers. (Yes, Mr. McFeely was named after him!)

For those of you who have missed it (perhaps you never had television growing up), Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a young children’s show that ran from 1968 to 2001 aiming to make little kids feel good about themselves and promote imaginative play, exploration, and a feeling of safety and predictability (in a good way). It also helped teach emotional and social skills to young kids, some of whom may have lacked such lessons elsewhere. There were nearly 900 episodes, and each one included songs that Fred Rogers himself wrote and sang. Now 75 of those are included in this book.

Some of the important lessons included in the poems are obvious in the titles and lyrics: caring about others (“I like you as you are,” “You are special”), being inclusive of everyone (“It’s you I like”), fostering your curiosity and imagination (“Who Shall I Be Today”), being reflective about your own life (“What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel”), and having a positive outlook (“It’s Such a Good Feeling,” “You’re Special”). These are all lessons that transcend decades and generations; they are just as relevant to your kids as they were to you as a kid, and just as relevant to you now as an adult. Perhaps we should all go back to watching the occasional episode of the show to remind us about what’s truly important.

The book is aimed at kids age 6-8, but anyone who watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will get a warm feeling inside just reading through the lyrics and words of these poems. Read them, sing them, internalize them. Share them with your kids.

Read through A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers with your favorite children, imparting Fred Rogers’ important lessons to them even when it’s not time for screen time. It will also help teach your kids (and yourself) the correct lyrics so they can more easily sing along as they watch reruns of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I’ll bet one of the songs is going through your head right now. “It’s Such a Good Feeling” is the one that gets me every time.

Here are two of the included poems:

Note: I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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