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Writing with simplicity, emotional clarity, and a sense of purpose, Reid tells Fred Rogers’ story in a meaningful, sometimes moving way. Phelan’s fluid pencil-and-watercolor artwork brings that story to life on the page... A beautifully crafted, heartfelt picture-book biography.
Using straightforward words and a deliberate pace that emulate the tone of Fred Rogers himself, Reid chronicles the story of this extraordinary childhood icon.
“You are important. You are valuable. You are enough—just as you are.” Freddie, as he was known as a child, spent quite a bit of time inside due to illness. Lonely, he turned to his puppets for comfort and entertainment, foreshadowing Daniel Tiger, Henrietta Pussycat, and other well-known characters who would later appear in Make-Believe. Fred’s grandfather McFeely taught him to believe in himself, to trust that he was special. Fred learned how to handle difficult emotions by playing piano music that evoked how he felt in the moment. His mother played an important part, too, encouraging him to look for helpers around him. So many of these early strategies and philosophies would later form the ethos of the Emmy Award–winningMister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which ran for 895 episodes on PBS. Phelan’s watercolor illustrations perfectly capture, through vivid colors, the rainbow of emotions that Freddie experienced. Phelan also employs both classic vignettes and graphic-novel elements, offering a unique portrayal of this remarkable individual . . . .
A simply written, thoughtful tribute worthy of the incomparable Mister Rogers. (Picture book/biography. 5-8)
A graceful, quietly moving biography.
The book has a gentle cadence that it’s easy to imagine Fred Rogers’ famous voice into... Phelan’s pencil and watercolor art, casually impressionistic in its details, beams with soft warmth.
In Reid’s debut children’s book, as a mother elephant and her calf stroll through the grasslands, Little Gray imagines the two of them switching places. “‘If I grew up and you were my calf…. I’d spend every day with you,” he says. “I would be your calf and stay right by your side,” his mother responds. Bryant’s dewy, pastel palette fills the landscape as the elephants saunter along, acting out each of the scenarios that the calf entertains. “‘I could show you how to make mud,’ said Little Gray. ‘I know you’d be a good teacher,’ Mama said.” An abundantly sweet depiction of a child’s gentle nudging for assurance.
A cozy tale about a young elephant imagining what things would be like if he were grown. An elephant mother spends the day with her Little Gray. His desire to grow up and his conflicting desire that his mother always be there to offer advice and support are at the root of his many questions. “Mama, when I grow up, will you grow down?” Mama elephant is portrayed as the ideal mother. Her gentle words put her young one at ease and bolster his growing confidence. When Little Gray states he will share leaves from a tall tree when he is bigger, Mama exclaims, “You would be big! And very kind.” Pastel-hued spreads are dominated by pale yellows, warm greens and watery blues. The elephants’ expressive eyes convey admiration and love, while the nimble movements of the younger pachyderm contrast with the steady, darker-hued mother, whose bigger shape often frames her child.
PreS-K—As a baby elephant spends a day with her mother, she considers “what if” she were big and her mother were small. Little Gray determines that she would do everything that her mother is doing with her, like strolling through fields of grass, eating sweet leaves off of a high tree, swimming, and sleeping cuddled up together. Most of all, Little Gray promises that she would keep her mother safe, just as she feels on this perfect day. The story reads like a combination of Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever (Firefly, 1995) and Barbara M. Joosse’s Mama, Do You Love Me? (Chronicle, 1998), in which the child pretends and the parent patiently plays along. Soft, watercolor illustrations highlight the expressive faces of the two animals and enhance the theme of unconditional love between parent and child.
Mama’s Day with Little Gray was named to the Toronto Public Library’s First and Best list for 2014. This list celebrates the “top ten picks for kids under five” to help them prepare for reading.