A Legend for His Decency
By the end of this month, Fred Rogers will have died twenty years ago. In a sense, though, he still lives on: the internet, for instance, is littered with memes and quotations from this great man.
As a Presbyterian minister, television personality, and human being, he preached a straightforward message: kindness towards all those you encounter in life. The world is not quite that simple, of course. One of his great strengths as TV’s Mister Rogers was his ability to address the challenges children face on a day-to-day basis, openly and without condescension.
Advice Kids Respond To
He never, either on his show or in any of Fred Rogers’ best books, talked down to them. Though he didn’t make a point of covering difficult subjects like the birds and the bees, children of all ages were – and are still – captivated by his straightforward honesty. It is exactly this quality you and your brood will appreciate most in these Fred Rogers books, ranked without regard for their intended age groups.
Today’s world is far more complex than the 70s neighborhood shown in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Kids need all the guidance they can get, especially when this is delivered in an accessible format and with timeless warmth.
Best Fred Rogers Books
|The World According to Mister Rogers||9.98/10||208 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Life's Journeys According to Mister Rogers||9.86/10||176 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|The Poetry of Mister Rogers||9.82/10||144 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|You Are Special||9.78/10||154 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Neighborly Words of Wisdom from Mister Rogers||9.74/10||202 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
The World According to Mister Rogers
3 Decades of Television Condensed into 200 Pages
Once upon a time, a TV was an expensive, bulky appliance. It also only showed whatever was on, while it was on: there was no video on demand. VCRs could record a program, but only if you remembered to set it; anyway, they were only commonplace from about the mid-80s onward.
Today, internet kids can still find Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on several streaming services. There are plenty of shows vying for their attention, though, so this may not be their first choice. It therefore made sense to create a kind of summary of its down-to-earth wisdom.
Sweet Without Being Cloying
Though published posthumously, this turned into one of the best-selling Fred Rogers books ever. The stories and essays were taken from the best of the author’s writings, making The World According to Mister Rogers the quintessential embodiment of his point of view.
Though intended for young adults, who will undoubtedly find it comforting and inspiring, each chapter is short and simple enough for most preteens to understand. Should they read this book, you can expect your dinner conversations to be a little more meaningful than usual: themes covered include the importance of being true to yourself and why terrorists end up as terrorists.
Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers
Further Down Life’s Path
As the title suggests, this is in a sense a sequel to The World According to Mister Rogers. Both books contain forewords by his widow introducing Fred from her perspective and outlining the long journey they shared.
You can read these books in any order, but there’s a good chance that you’ll cherish whichever you skim through first enough to get the other (or perhaps several of the most popular Fred Rogers books!)
Life as a Journey
The foreword makes the point that Rogers often used travel as a metaphor for our changing circumstances and developing as a person. Some portions of everyone’s existence are uphill battles, while others are natural and easy. Certain people have their itineraries all worked out, some go where the wind takes them. Everyone, however, should strive for authenticity as they progress through life. This is perhaps the main theme of Life’s Journeys, which is without a doubt one of the top Fred Rogers books.
You could think of this as a kind of tourist guidebook to life’s adventure. Reading it – and internalizing its messages – can help you gain insight from your experiences and face good as well as bad times with decorum and kindness. Unlike some Fred Rogers books, the anecdotes and essays are in order instead of being lumped together, organized in three sections titled Who You Are Right Now, Loving and Being Loved, and Guided Drift.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers
Silly Rhymes that Teach Important Lessons
Fred Rogers was, among many other things, a talented musician and songwriter. He actually earned a degree in music before starting his television career and eventually graduating from the seminary. He often praised music as a means of communication and a way of touching his viewers’ souls.
The songs many of us remember from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, including Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, are now available in the form of poems. With 75 rhymes to entertain kids between 2 and 6 years old, including new material and charming illustrations, this book would make a fantastic gift for parents of young children.
Gone But Not Forgotten
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is Fred Rogers’ latest book, apart from Many Ways to Say I Love You. It’s also the title of a biographical movie starring Tom Hanks; watching this is certain to inspire a hankering to read one or two of the best Fred Rogers books.
It says a great deal that these rhymes, some of which are instantly recognizable, remain as popular as they are even today. Some verses will take you back to a simpler time, while their young readers of today will remember them for years to come.
You Are Special
Some Perspective from a Modest, Trustworthy Guy
It’s fashionable today to criticize “participation trophies” and giving kids good grades just for showing up. There may be a kernel of truth to this mindset, but we should also not forget that developing self-esteem is an important part of childhood. This makes up a major theme in You Are Special, a collection of quotations and possibly the best Fred Rogers book to start with if you’re unfamiliar with his work.
Lifelong fans of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood will also find plenty of new, or half-forgotten, material here. Something we would all do well to remember – not to mention instill in our kids – is that confidence and self-esteem should have little to do with your background, material wealth, or abilities. You are worthy of respect and love no matter who you are, as long as you behave in a way that merits those gifts.
Meant for Parents
He also reassures moms and dads: you are probably doing a better job than you think! They, as well as teachers, nannies, and anyone who takes care of children, will find several nuggets of Rogers’ calm, charismatic wisdom they can apply in their own lives.
There’s also some practical advice, though You Are Special does not try to be a parenting manual. He reminds us, for instance, to listen carefully to children and allow them to make the most of their natural talents. These aren’t groundbreaking revelations, but they’re also easy to lose sight of in the midst of a hectic lifestyle.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Neighborly Words of Wisdom from Mister Rogers
A Re-Issue of “You Are Special”
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t an entirely new work: most of the material can be found in what is arguably Fred Rogers’ best book, You Are Special, described just above. This edition was published in order to coincide with the launch of the movie on Rogers’ life, bringing his beautiful message to a wider range of readers.
It does, however, include a long article previously published in Esquire. This was written by journalist Tom Junod, who’s called Lloyd Vogel in the film. This was at his request, as much of the movie’s plot regarding him was made up. Fortunately, Fred Rogers’ portrayal is mostly true to life. Still, if getting the facts straight is important to you, you’re better off watching the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? or, of course, reading Junod’s excellent essay in this book.
Can You Say…Hero?
Reading Rogers’ own words is always insightful and heartwarming. However, this does not provide you with much of a portrait of the man himself. Rogers rarely, for instance, mentions his own children, presumably out of respect for their privacy.
It’s this kind of background information that Junod expertly provides. He sketches Fred Rogers as an incredibly humble spirit despite his fame – in fact, someone who’s pretty close to the lovable character he played on TV.
Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?
Part of Mister Rogers’ enduring charm lay in how much effort he went to in order to include and interact with his audience. When he says “I’m feeding the fish now,” for instance, he’s actually reassuring a young, blind viewer who wrote to him, concerned that they were hungry. On another occasion, he and his puppets spent several hours at the bedside of a young fan who had undergone brain surgery. According to some who knew him, he answered every single letter he received.
Fred Rogers strongly believed that parents and educators should do their best to listen to children. Their questions, emotions, opinions, and concerns are no less valid than those of adults and should be addressed with equal seriousness. This is what Dear Mister Rogers does.
Forthright Questions, Honest Answers
Some of the letters (not all written by children!) are nothing short of hilarious, others thought-provoking, and many manage to give a rare insight into how children look at the world. These are organized into sections, each covering a different theme.
This is a unique item on the Fred Rogers book list. You can’t go far wrong in choosing this book as a gift for anyone who has children in their lives. People who’ve never watched or didn’t enjoy the show may find it a little repetitive and pedantic, but any reader will better understand how to communicate with children after reading Dear Mister Rogers.
Fred Rogers: The Last Interview
A Man at Peace with Himself
Among all the best-rated books on Fred Rogers, this one stands out for being largely in his own, unscripted words. Inside, you’ll find six extensive interviews with the man himself. Topics covered range from the power of television as an educational tool to his faith and acceptance of his impending death.
If your goal is to get to know Fred Rogers as a person, The Last Interview will serve you better than any of the biographies on him. The way he combines having firm convictions with a willingness to listen to others is an example to all of us, while some of the anecdotes from his remarkable life are truly inspiring.
Leaves You Wanting More
This book is rather short at about 125 pages, but not disappointingly so. You’ll often feel the urge to put it down and reflect on what you’ve just read. Most of the themes are simple: kindness is never wasted, being a good person starts with being true to yourself, it’s important to be grateful for what you have.
Rogers’ great gift is to phrase ideas like these in a way that’s instantly convincing, as if he’s merely saying what you’ve been thinking all along but couldn’t put into words. This book leaves you looking for ways to change the world for the better, and it’s difficult to top that in terms of praise.
Wisdom from the World According to Mister Rogers
Good as a Gift
This book is an abridged version of The World According to Mister Rogers. It perfectly showcases his homey wit and common sense through a number of quotations. This would be an excellent choice as a present for someone who doesn’t know anything about Mister Rogers. If buying for yourself, though, you’ll probably want to select something longer from the best books by Fred Rogers.
Reading this book all in one sitting is probably not how it was meant to be used. Considering its short passages, it would probably be better to consume this book a little at a time. Making a ritual of reading something inspiring first thing every morning is far from the worst idea in the world.
Made for Sharing
This book is only a few inches in size, yet it’s just the kind of thing you can leave lying around your living room like a coffee table book. If you have kids of any age who prefer to avoid reading, this may be a good strategy to kindle a love of the written word in them.
Some books seem to have an almost magical ability to give you just the advice you need whenever you open them. This is one of those.
The Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book
Think Like a Four-Year-Old
Though Fred Rogers had no formal background in education, he was a lifelong student of the ways in which children learn and develop. Today, we can all enjoy the benefit of his experience through this illustrated, easy-to-read book.
At only a little over a hundred pages, it is very well organized and specifically addresses common problems like establishing boundaries and dealing with picky eaters. The best piece of advice in this book, though, is to embrace the perspective of your children instead of simply expecting them to act as they “should”.
Unlike some books on parenting, everything Rogers talks about is rooted in the day-to-day joy and struggle of raising children. There are no fancy, abstract theories here. Nor, in fact, will you find formulaic checklists or step-by-step guides. Though this book contains plenty of good ideas, it remains the responsibility of each parent to figure out how to apply these in their own household.
Religion played a major part in the author’s life, and at times he seems to implicitly assume that the reader shares his beliefs. This book is never preachy, however, and important values such as generosity of spirit, compassion, and self-discipline are of course universal.
Mister Rogers Talks with Parents
Learning Empathy for Children
Understanding children can be hard, but as Rogers points out, all it takes is a little effort. Their feelings, for instance, mean just as much to them as yours do to you, even if they can’t yet articulate exactly what they’re feeling, or why.
In a sense, this book is a companion piece to The Mister Rogers’ Parenting Book. It’s significantly longer, though, and contains plenty of food for thought. One example of this is how he describes parenthood as an inner change, not a set of techniques.
A Little Dated
This book was first published way back in 1983. While human nature hasn’t changed much since then, a lot else has. Fred Rogers and his co-author, Barry Head, certainly couldn’t have predicted things like pervasive social media and its effect on young minds.
Overall, though, this book is evergreen. If you need a guide on how to shepherd children to becoming their best selves, this may well be it. Though many of the thoughts it contains are essentially common sense, Rogers’ compassionate explanations will make you see them in a new light.
You can’t read many Fred Rogers book reviews without seeing words like “remarkable”, “upstanding”, and “honest”. This was truly a man who lived up to his own ideals.
His work in television will always occupy a special place in the hearts of many of us. His words lose little of their impact and meaning when you see them in print, though. Whether you’re returning to his neighborhood with fond memories, or introducing someone to Mister Rogers for the first time, these books will not disappoint.
Alissa is an avid reader, blogger, and wannabe writer. (She's a much better cook than a writer actually). Alissa is married, has one human, one feline, and two canine kids. She always looks a mess and never meets a deadline.