“Here Come the Helpers” by Leslie Kimmelman; illustrated by Barbara Bakos
This is the year of a salute to the kindest and wisest of neighbors…Fred Rogers.
For a generation or more, Fred Rogers taught children with simple kindness and a collection of puppets that mimicked childhood events in the “Neighborhood of Make Believe,” what emotions look and feel like…and how to navigate them.
In 2018, there was a documentary on Fred Rogers entitled, “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” that debuted to wonderfully heartfelt reviews that spoke to this Peabody Award winning program and its effect on young children.
And this year, in 2109, Tom Hanks, The Everyman of Movies, was chosen to portray Fred Rogers in a movie. It chronicles, not so much his show, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” but rather Fred’s ability to meet people where they were, and his uncanny ability to listen and help them elucidate and heal from whatever issues they carried with them in life.
He did this in the movie, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” by way of his meeting with the jaded and cynical investigative journalist named Lloyd Vogel, who is asked to do a piece on Fred Rogers. How Fred Rogers’ empathy and kindness help clear the deeply seated veneer of disinterest from Lloyd’s heart is pretty telling on Fred Rogers ability to not just hear, but listen and empathize with what is said in conversations with people with whom he came into contact.
My husband was part of a company that published Fred Rogers books in the 90’s. Fred Rogers came into the offices one day and my husband, to this day, is railed upon that he didn’t let me know ahead of time. I so wanted to meet him.
He said Fred was exactly the same person as the one that strolled in that door each day on TV and zipped up that collection of sweaters that his mom had made.
Young 20-somethings there flocked around him and oohed and ahhed over their childhood “neighbor” come to visit the august offices of a New York publishing house. And he was just Mr. Rogers wherever he went.
Which leads me to the book that I want to share with you.
Fred said on his program that his mom had told him whenever there are emergencies and things happen, “Look for the helpers. There will ALWAYS be helpers.
And in light of the horrific things that the news brings to children’s eyes and ears….and even schools, this is comforting.
Here is a board book called, “Here Come the Helpers,‘ by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Barbara Bakos.
It opens with:
It’s a big, beautiful world,
Filled with awesome adventures.
But sometimes emergencies happen.
When they do, look for the helpers!
Helpers are all around you.
Ambulances, EMT’s, police cars, mechanics, tow trucks, police officers, coast guard helicopters, response boats, fire trucks, firefighters and support vehicles are just a few of the collection of helpers here.
And cheerily enough, they are all piloted by a variety of animals such as foxes, rabbits, cats, dogs, giraffes, tigers, porcupines and some of the cutest support response team members, you’re likely to see.
Barbara Bakos has done a fine job of depicting the variety of emergencies without allowing anxiety to seep into the scenario.
Leslie Kimmelman’s accessible and informative narrative allows young readers to peruse at their own pace, and point out things to their heart’s content. And there are plenty of opportunities for questions.
I think Fred Rogers would have enjoyed “Here Come the Helpers.”
It’s as simple in its message, as he was in his.
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