The realm where a classic picture book shines
A Sick Day for Amos McGee
By Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve got a crush on an elderly zookeeper called Amos McGee and his charges at a certain zoo. Winner of the Caldecott medal in 2010 as well as Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award by the New York Times Book Review, Amos McGee is a jewel, a gem, and a quiet sparkler of a picture book. It is simple, soothing and very savvy in its quaint way. So much is said and inferred in so few pages, which is the realm where a classic picture book shines.
Written and illustrated by the husband and wife team of Philip C. and Erin E. Stead, Amos McGee is a story of reciprocal kindness. Your children will follow a day in the life of a compassionate zookeeper called Amos as he visits his charges. He unerringly knows what each craves; Chess with the elephant, races with the tortoise, a shy penguin in need of a quiet sit-down, a runny-nosed rhino with no hanky and an owl afraid of the dark. “Hoo” knew?!
The scene shifts to a day when Amos himself is not tip top and is in need of some TLC as he decides to take the day off. Is he missed? What do you think? Will the animals mobilize to meet Amos’ needs? Kids will immediately know the answer to this question.
The lesson here for children, and it is not a hard sell, is that dedicated friends are hard to find and even count on the fingers of one hand in the world of homosapiens. But for lucky Amos, their number does equal five. Here are faithful friends who use public transport to get to him and then use balloons, chess, Hide-and-Seek, naps, pots of tea and hankies to heal and cheer.
This is the perfect read for a day when Mom, Dad and the kids are under the weather and could use a book to bring down the energy level. The illustrations are sophisticated in their ability to bring feelings alive, both on the faces of the zoo’s inhabits and the gamut of emotions on the face of Amos himself. The soft subtlety in color and creativity of narrative is as soothing as a soft rain outside when you’re tucked under the covers. It feels and sounds great.