cover image BE MY NEIGHBOR


Maya Ajmera, John D. Ivanko, , illus. by John D. Ivanko. . Charlesbridge/Shakti, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-57091-504-8

This photo essay is inspired by the signature song and insights of the late Fred Rogers, who observes in the introduction that "as unique as each one of us is, we are much more the same than we are different." Ivanko's genial, documentary photos reinforce Rogers's words with images of children in every sphere of their life: school, play, home, the community, places of worship, the marketplace and special celebrations. Throughout the pages, the photographs achieve a balance between the geographically idiosyncratic (the orange, sculpted-looking homes of Mali, the open-air buses of Thailand) and scenes that will seem very close to the lives of American readers (a farmer's market in France, various playgrounds around the world), so the exotic and familiar (in keeping with Rogers's opening remarks) seem connected to one another. The text, however, is problematic. Ajmera's (Extraordinary Girls ) prose, while aping the reassuring simplicity of Rogers's legendary monologues, unfortunately comes off as stilted and somewhat didactic: "People who live in the same neighborhood often work together to make it a better place…There are also people in your neighborhood whose job it is to take care of you: doctors, police officers, firefighters, and mail carriers, for example." There's little to draw children in or get them thinking, despite the provocative pictures. Ultimately the volume offers little more than a travelogue. Ages 4-9. (Oct.)