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The Picture Book Buzz

Mister Rogers' Gift of Music - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I remember watching Mister Rogers and singing along with my younger siblings. And especially introducing my kids to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I loved the acceptance, genuine interest, and wonder that he offered to everyone. We all loved when Picture Picture took us behind the scenes to factories making things like crayons, macaroni, trumpets, or merry-go-round horses.

As a critique partner, I had the privilege to watch Donna craft and mold this story into an amazingly touching tribute to a truly remarkable man determined to make a difference in the lives of children throughout the world. I am tickled that I get to offer you a sneak peek at this amazing book, which releases August 23, 2022.

Mr. Rogers' Gift of Music

Author: Donna Cangelosi

Illustrator: Amanda Calatzis

Publisher: Page Street Publishers (2022)

Ages: 4-8



Music, music therapy, acceptance, feelings, and inspiration.


For a young Fred Rogers, music was a gift. It eased the pain of childhood illness and bullying and helped Fred express how he felt when words alone were difficult.

As an adult, he gifted his melodies to the world, showing children by example that they can express themselves, cope with negative feelings, and connect to each other through music.

This sensitive, life-affirming biography not only portrays the life of this beloved TV personality, but focuses on Fred’s most memorable songs and musical TV moments, and captures the enduring magic of his music in brilliantly colorful abstract illustration. Readers will not only learn about what music meant to Fred Rogers, but find the encouragement and inspiration to brighten their own lives with song.

Opening Lines:

Fred Rogers looked directly into the television camera.

He smiled and sang as if every child in America was in the

room with him. . .

What I LOVED about this book:

Many picture books have end papers which encapsulate a part of the story and help tie it all together. Amanda Calatzis beautifully created a set in this book. The front end papers show a muted image of a town and street trolley - except for Mister Roger's bright yellow house with music and emotions emanating from it. The final endpapers shows the same town, but now brightly colored with many houses joining Mister Rogers' in releasing music and emotions into the universe. It is a wonderfully visual demonstration of the impact this amazing man had on many generations.

Image © Amanda Calatzis, 2022.

This is not a birth to death biography nor one focused on a particular moment, but instead a loving look at the treasure Mister Rogers gifted to the world. With this focus in mind, the book opens in the PERFECT place - with Mister Rogers changing his shoes in the living room of his studio house as he sings his iconic opening song and genuinely invites everyone to be his neighbor and friend. It will be familiar to many young readers, especially fans of Daniel Tigers' Neighborhood, and nostalgia inducing for many adults. I love how Amanda swirled the lyrics and the music of the songs through the softly colored illustrations and also included cameos from the puppets.

Text © Donna Cangelosi. 2022. Image © Amanda Calatzis, 2022.

Donna created a remarkable refrain on the next page where the song continues to swirl around kids in homes around the country who felt he was singing to them - "They sang along like a neighborhood choir—together even though they were miles apart." I adore Amanda's depiction of the late 1960's with the triple kid beanbag and tiny old T.V. !

The mood and the colors change for the next few spreads as we watch & learn that as an asthmatic and bullied child, Fred Rogers was often alone, sad, and dealing with "a storm of dark feelings." But even in these darkest moments, "music was sunshine." Moments of sparkling swirls of light and notes, music helped ease Fred's pain. First it came from his Grandfather's violin and then his own piano playing. In a genius illustration, Amanda shows the passage time and the healing power of music... where we see how "Making music pushed Fred’s gloomy feelings out and let fresh air in."

Text © Donna Cangelosi. 2022. Image © Amanda Calatzis, 2022.

After a quick nod to the creation of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Donna explores how Fred's determination to bring the power of music to kids everywhere led to him writing songs the kids inspired, exposing them to "a rainbow of fascinating instruments" and spectacular musicians (like Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma), and creating lyrics validating everyone as a special friend. Amanda did a remarkable job of continuing to weave the lyrics, staff, and light through and around these pages, while still finding ways to make each one unique. She beautifully captured the way Fred used music to deal with anger, as well as explored the ephemeral and joyous feeling music offers.

You're going to love the final two spreads as Donna and Amanda explore the legacy that Fred Rogers left to the children of the world, throughout multiple generations. And show again how his fans became "a neighborhood choir." The author's note explores a little more about what music meant to him, his television show, and how he still helps children after his death. This is such a wonderful celebration of Fred Rogers and his determination to make sure all kids knew they mattered and could express themselves through music.


- if you own an instrument, or make one of your own, how many different feelings can you express when you play it? Can you make it sound angry, happy, sad, or silly?

- is there a song you like to listen to when you're sad? mad? scared? happy? lonely? relaxing? or wild? Why?

- if you've seen Mister Roger's Neighborhood or Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, which is your favorite song? [If you haven't seen them, use any song that's important to you.] Draw a picture or write a description of how you would show this song. Look back at Amanda Calatzis' illustrations if you need ideas.

If you missed the interview of Donna Cangelosi and Amanda Calatzis on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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