Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers

Written by Laura Renauld, Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

Published by Atheneum, 2020
Medium: Photoshop, Gouache, Colored Pencil

I remember watching Mister Rogers on PBS in the mornings before school. I remember how calm and friendly his voice was. He spoke to children understanding that they too have a rich, complex emotional life, and a need to understand themselves and express those emotions. When the possibility of working on a picture book biography about him came up, I can only remember thinking “YES, ABSOLUTELY!” I’m not sure I even read the text manuscript before agreeing to illustrate it! 

Books that are based on real people require not only imagination, but a tremendous amount of research too. Sometimes there just isn’t a picture of the thing/moment/person that you need to draw…and you have to make an educated guess or a creative choice. My visual goal in this book was to help transport the reader to the time and the place when these events were happening, and help them to FEEL what Fred was feeling in those moments. It is all about feelings, after all!

My hope was that it would teach adult readers more about Fred Rogers as an advocate for children’s emotional well being, while introducing child readers to him as the important cultural figure that he is. I wanted to get a little looser with my approach in the visual style, so I combined gouache, colored pencil, and a toothy digital ink line. I heavily referenced Mister Roger’s Neighborhood (and as a bonus, got to watch MANY episodes too)!