Monday, April 11, 2011

Book Review: A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Book: A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Published: 2010
Source: Local Library

Zookeeper Amos McGee always makes time visit with his friends during his rounds at the zoo, and they always look forward to it. But one day he wakes up too sick to come to work, and his animal friends are very gloomy without him. Well, if he can’t go to the zoo, the zoo will come to him.

When writing this review, I reflected that "charming" is overused when discussing picture books. The effect, of course, is that when a genuinely charming book like A Sick Day for Amos McGee comes along, we’re not quite sure how to describe it in a way that will convey how truly sweet it is. There’s nary a child to be found, and yet this is a pitch-perfect children’s book. The charm of the situation - you guys, the animals visit the zookeeper! - and the sweet simplicity of the friendship between man and animals capture kids’ imagination. I’ve used it in storytime and the kids always get a kick out of seeing the rhinoceros fit in the bus on the way to Amos’ house.

But it's more than cute and charming. This is a book about friendship, love, and compassion in the deepest and most generous sense, about giving back to friends what they have given you, not out of obligation but genuine caring.

When I first read it, this had just landed on the NYT Best Illustrated Books of the Year. I was so taken by it that when it landed the Caldecott, I squealed with joy. The illustrations, done in woodblock printing and fine lines with washes of subtle color and oodles of precise detail, contribute to the light and gentle feel of this - gotta say it - charming story.

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