Fred Rogers famously hosted Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for 31 seasons. The program, aimed toward children ages two to five, was known for addressing difficult issues in a way that children could understand and for Mister Rogers’ calm demeanor. Rogers decided early in the show that he wanted to be himself, and spent the program talking directly to viewers. Rogers taught the audience about kindness, friendship, and that all of us have value, no matter where we come from or what we’re going through. Luckily for us, the upcoming Tom Hanks film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, promises to bring Fred Rogers back to our screens. In honor of this exciting and heartwarming movie, we’ve put together a list of books we think Fred Rogers would’ve been proud to have in the neighborhood.
Elsa is a lonely seven-year-old whose only friend is her crazy 77-year-old grandmother. Though Elsa’s grandmother doesn’t get along with most people, she and Elsa are best friends, and Elsa finds solace in her grandmother’s fantastical stories about faraway places where normal is overrated. When her grandmother dies, Elsa discovers letters apologizing to all the people her grandmother has wronged; following her grandmother’s instructions leads her to dangerous places and fairy-tale lands in this multigenerational tale of love, forgiveness, and finding your place in the world.
This warmhearted love letter between a granddaughter and her grandmother explores big emotions with wisdom and charm.
An all-time literary classic and often considered one of the great American novels, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD tackles racism, the judicial system, community, and compassion from the perspective of a precocious child, Scout. Scout’s father, Atticus, listens to her concerns and allows her to ask big questions about the state of the world and the trial he’s working on. Scout’s viewpoint and concerns are taken seriously by the writer and her family, and her voice is an incredibly important perspective on the issues we face.
Wendy’s Fictional Dinner Party Guest: Atticus Finch
Perhaps it’s a cliché to want to have dinner with Atticus Finch—lawyer, father, all-around good man. Atticus is known for his conscience, grace, compassion, and morality. I suspect that his words would be full of insight and wisdom, and challenge me to sit straighter in my chair.
Based on the true story of a penguin family in the Central Park Zoo, AND TANGO MAKES THREE tells the story of two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who fall in love and eventually hatch an adopted egg, a female chick who is called Tango. This story is a reminder that families come together in many different ways and not all families look alike. It’s a story of love and acceptance, and how Roy and Silo were supported by the people around them who believed that they deserved a family.
The only thing cute enough to warm my cold New Yorker heart is penguins in love. This illustrated children’s book fictionalizes the true story of two male penguins who became partners and, with the help of a kindly zookeeper, raised Tango, a penguin chick in the Central Park Zoo.
Common, an awarding-winning musician, actor, and activist, believes that love is the most powerful force there is. “Letting love have the last word” is a saying and a philosophy, a way to start and end your day. Though the world is sometimes scary and troubling, Common makes a case for putting out love, kindness, and compassion every day, and trying to make the world a better place through daily actions and empathy.
George Washington Black is an 11-year-old field slave who is terrified when he finds out he has been assigned to be the personal manservant to his master’s brother. Wash finds that this arrangement with Christopher suits him better than he thought, but when there is a mysterious murder, Wash and Christopher flee together and learn about the true nature of their relationship and what it means to be two people who care about each other but who are separated by an impossible divide. In his travels, Wash learns about love and friendship and betrayal, and what it means to find his true self.
Dr. Edith Eger was only 16 when she was taken to Auschwitz along with her family. She survived the war and Josef Mengele, partly on the advice from her mother that no one could take away what was in her mind. After the war, Eger married and built a life and career in the United States but struggled to reconcile her survivor’s guilt and shame. She spent her life telling herself that she was unworthy of her survival and her happy life. THE CHOICE helped Edith finally tell her story and find compassion and forgiveness for herself.
Shel Silverstein’s classic work, THE GIVING TREE, has been the subject of debate since its publication in 1964. The illustrated book details the relationship between a young boy and a female apple tree. The tree gives all of herself physically to the boy throughout his life to make him happy. There are many different interpretations of this book, including the dangers of unlimited human consumption of natural resources, the joy of selfless love, and a cautionary tale about being the person who takes but never gives in a relationship. One thing that is indubitable is that the book makes readers think carefully about relationships, compassion, and the humanity of themselves and those around them.
One of the remarkable things about THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL is that it offers an incredible, authentically human perspective on tragedy and historical events. Anne Frank maintains love for her family, dignity, and her sense of self even as she undergoes incredible suffering. The ability to hear directly from Anne’s perspective is so important and provide us with a unique opportunity to show empathy while learning about the impact of events on individual people.
Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annex" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.
As the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, King’s THE GOOD NEIGHBOR touches on the values that made the person Fred Rogers, and how that person came to create one of the most successful children’s shows of all time. Mr. Rogers took children and their concerns seriously, while others brushed those concerns under the rug. Rogers recognized that the values of kindness, compassion, and equality can be taught. He was fiercely devoted to bringing out the best in us all and helping us see the best in one another.
Laura Schroff was a busy sales executive in New York, who brushed past people living on the street every day. A panhandling 11-year-old boy, however, caught her attention. Over the next four years, the two forged a friendship that changed both of their lives. The book serves as a reminder that none of us is better than the other, no matter our living situation or job, and that everyone deserves love and safety.