Here on this lovely Winner’s Wednesday, I thought I would share one of the sweetest stories that I have ever read that just so happened to win the Caldecott Award in 2011, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. This book tells the story of Amos McGee, an elderly man that works as a zookeeper. He is no ordinary zookeeper though; he plays checkers with the elephant, keep the shy penguin company, and many more. One day, Amos wakes up with a terrible cold and is unable to make it in to the zoo. The animals wait and wait for him, until they decide that they should repay the favors that he has done for all of them and they go keep him company while he is recovering.
Because it is the winner of the Caldecott Award, I think it is appropriate to say that the illustrations in this picture book are truly one-of-a-kind and are able to show the subtle characteristics and feelings of the characters in the book in ways that words simply cannot. The illustrator, Erin C. Stead, used a wood carving technique to create the pictures for this book and used muted colors that are not overwhelming, but contribute to the overall tone of the story. Each animal has certain characteristics that are displayed through these illustrations and even a child who could not read would be able to understand that the penguin is very nervous around other people by his facial expression and the way he is standing (he was my favorite character!).
The underlying theme in this book is classic, but with a new spin–the meaning of true friendship. The animals in the zoo realize that because Amos is always there for each of them, they must return the favor. I especially loved the humorous spreads that showed all the animals waiting for the city bus and riding the city bus to get to Amos’ house. Then they simply all spend time together, keeping Amos company while he was sick.
I would absolutely recommend this book to any parent or teacher with great enthusiasm. The characters and the overall story are just so sweet and this could start a discussion with younger children (around ages 3-5) about the true meaning of friendship and what nice things they could do for their friends.
Reviewed by Emily Rice