The winner of a critique from Rekha Rajan is Angel, and the winner of a signed copy of the book is Jia! Thanks for your support of Rekha and PBJamz! I hope you both enjoy your prizes!
Video Book Review of MISTER ROGERS' GIFT OF MUSIC
Donna preferred to do a written interview, so I have a video book review for you today of her book and her interview questions and answers will be directly below. This book is beautiful! The words, the pictures, the arrangement. It is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man.
Donna's Written Interview
1. Talk about the inspiration for this book. Where did the idea come from?
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Tonnye! The heart of MISTER
ROGERS’ GIFT OF MUSIC grew from my work as a child psychologist and my
frustration hearing story after story about kids being bullied. In 2016, I decided to
write a picture book biography about someone who helped children. It didn’t take
long to think of Fred Rogers. At the time, very few picture books had been written
about him, so I got right to work. After reading about Fred’s childhood and the
challenges he overcame, I knew I had to write a story about this wonderful man.
2. Your book apparently focuses on the musical aspect of Fred Rogers. What role
did music play in the life of Mister Rogers?
As a young boy, Fred suffered with asthma and spent countless hours stuck inside.
One of his earliest memories was the joy he experienced hearing his grandfather
play the violin. By five, Fred learned to play the piano and discovered that music
was a great way to express his emotions. Fred went on to study music composition
in college. As everyone knows, he used his gift of music on Mister Rogers’
Neighborhood to brighten the lives of countless children.
3. As an author, how did you go about conducting research for this book?
I first read articles and books to understand Fred’s childhood and how he became
the beloved Mister Rogers. Then, I watched a series of interviews Fred did with
Karen Herman for the Archive of American Television in 1999. In one discussion,
Fred described music as his first love, the way he expressed himself, and one of his
gifts to children. Hearing Fred’s passion for music, I knew I had my story. I also
watched interviews, videos, and many episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,
visited his alma mater, Rollins College, and studied the lyrics of his songs.
4. What advice do you have for authors who might want to write a PB biography?
I've heard it a tough sell in today's market.
Read everything you can. Search for primary sources, such as videos, letters, and
other ways to study the person’s life, view of the world, and the way they relate to
others. If possible, do field research to walk in your character’s shoes. Then, find
an interesting, unique aspect of the person’s life that you relate to and which will
resonate with kids. Ask yourself: What will make kids want to read this story?
What will make it stand out? When you have your idea, read mentor texts. It’s
amazing how many fun ways there are to tell a story.
Why do you think this one stood out, even though there are several other PB
biographies about Mr. Rogers?
Unlike other picture books about Fred Rogers, my story focuses specifically on the
role music played in his life and how he used it to help kids. I also incorporated a
neighborhood theme to show how Fred brought children throughout the country
together with his gift of music.
5. How do you envision teachers using your book in their classroom? Are there
teaching guides/resources available? What is one thing you hope teachers will
emphasize with their students if they do use this book?
In addition to introducing children to the beloved Fred Rogers, I envision teachers
using MISTER ROGERS’ GIFT OF MUSIC to help kids understand and find
creative ways to express uncomfortable feelings. I also hope the book will foster
kindness and help children see that they are important because of their uniqueness,
not only because of their accomplishments.
6. After writing this book, what do you think Mr. Rogers would say is the most
important job of music teachers? What would he encourage us to do?
Fred Rogers was fascinated with all kinds of music. On Mister Rogers’
Neighborhood, he invited many musicians, including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis
and cellist Yo-Yo Ma (who appear in MISTER ROGERS’ GIFT OF MUSIC) to
perform and talk about their instruments. Fred frequently highlighted that music is
a great way to express ourselves, but that learning to play an instrument takes time
and determination. I think Fred would love music teachers to continue where he
left off—introducing kids to different genres of music, highlighting that people
have different styles of expressing themselves with it, and encouraging kids to
explore what types of melodies and instruments speak to them. I also think Mister
Rogers would thank music teachers and all teachers for helping kids learn and
grow. He often said, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero
7. How did your role as psychologist and that training help prepare you to write
My training and work as a child psychologist enables me to be especially tuned in
and empathic regarding children’s feelings and internal experiences. This lens
helped me find words to convey what Fred must have felt when he was sick and
bullied as a kid and the powerful healing influence music served for him.
As a child psychologist, do you have recommendations for how school counselors
might use this book in their interactions with students?
Counselors can use the story to help children explore and understand their
uncomfortable emotions. This spread is particularly useful for dealing with anger
and frustration. Page Street Kids designed this feelings thermometer activity to to
help kids explore how they feel and ways to cope when experiencing different
levels of mad. The feelings thermometer (linked as a file below along with a printable poster) can also be adapted for discussing sad, scared, lonely, and worried feelings. In addition,
counselors can use the book to encourage children to use music and other creative
arts to express and soothe themselves.
A Little Jam. . .(The Music Kind)
This is a fun little remix of "Sing Together". If this one is not your jam, check out lots of other pieces in the YouTube playlist. There are so many excellent pieces to share there. Enjoy perusing the list. It's in the links section below.
Teacher Tips, Tricks and Topics
There are so many wonderful books and videos available about Mister Rogers. My utmost suggestion would be to do a unit study on him. Mr. Rogers philosophies and kindness and encouragement would be helpful to kids of all ages. (You can check out the Pinterest board in the links section for additional books and activities to use for a unit study.)
For this particular book, here are some topics, lessons, and activities that I think would be really helpful:
Tips and Topics for Music Teachers
So many different ways to go here -- lots of music in this book!
Tips for authors from Donna
1. Read picture books every chance you get.
2. Write stories that have personal meaning and tug at your heart.
3 Don’t forget to play! Play replenishes our spirits, quiets our inner critic, and promotes
Writing Prompts from Tonnye
1. Choose a feeling and write a song about that feeling.
2. Title: Music is Sunshine
3. Choose one of Mr. Rogers' songs and write about what the lyrics mean to you.
4. How does music make you feel?
5. Write about a time when music helped you feel better.
6. How did bullying affect Mr. Rogers?
7. Why was music important to Mr. Rogers?
8. Write about what the word neighborhood means to you.
9. How is a neighborhood like a choir?
10. If you were invited to be on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood show, what message would you want to share?
11. Compare 2 of Mr. Rogers' songs. Which one do you like best? Why?
12. Compare 2 versions of one of the songs. Which one do you prefer? Why?
13. Is music important to you? Why or why not?
14. When you're having a bad day, what kind of music do you want to listen to? Why?
Links, More Fun, Extensions for Families and Everyone!
PBJamz Snack -- PBJ Granola
Since Mister Rogers often ate granola for breakfast, I thought it was appropriate to share a PBJ granola recipe for this episode. Simple ingredients (none with a mother, as was Mister Rogers' food preference -- he was a vegetarian) and all yummy and delicious. If you make it, let us know in the comments. You can find the recipe here: https://www.thismamaloves.com/granola-recipe/ Be sure to check out all of This Mama Loves' recipes and tips for food, crafts, life, and travel, too!
Guest Links and Giveaways
Donna has graciously agreed, in conjunction with her publisher Page Street Kids to give away a signed copy of her beautiful book. Also, please note the generous freebies above in the interview portion -- printable poster and feelings thermometer.
To be eligible to win a copy of the book, leave a comment below!
Here are the links for Donna, her publisher, book, etc:
Linktree site (This has all the purchase information for MISTER ROGERS' GIFT OF MUSIC)
Reminder: If you enjoy these books and authors, please support them by:
1. Purchasing their books
2. Recommending them to friends, coworkers, educators, etc.
3. Requesting and checking out their books at your local library
4. Leaving positive reviews (just 50 reviews on Amazon bumps a book up to recommended status.) If you'd rather not support Amazon, review the books on Barnes and Noble or Goodreads.
This page is the official space for PBJamz -- multimedia Jamorama celebrating all things PB (picture books) and Jamz (music), although we'll indulge in the other PBJ snacks where appropriate :-). Join us each Thursday for new content connecting picture books and music!