Stead, Philip C. A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook Press, 2010. 32 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9781596434028.
Kindly and elderly Amos is a zookeeper with a set routine: after a breakfast of tea and oatmeal, he takes the 6 a.m. bus to work, taking time from his busy schedule “to visit his good friends.” His friends are the elephant, tortoise, penguin, rhinoceros, and owl, and Amos has a special connection with each one. He plays chess with the elephant, has races with the tortoise, sits quietly with the shy penguin, etc. One day, Amos wakes up with a cold and must stay home from work. His friends note his absence and decide to go to his house to care for him, with the tenderness and care that he has shown them. They nurture Amos and cheer him up, then spend the night.
There is so much to notice about the illustrations that it might best lend itself to a classroom library or small group read-aloud. It could be used as an example text for teaching the literary concepts of beginning, middle, and end; there is a bold beginning (“Amos was an early riser”) that includes immediate details about Amos’s character, a problem at the heart of the story (Amos’s absence from the zoo), and a sweet solution to that problem at the conclusion.
This story of friendship and kindness is perfectly complemented by Erin Stead’s illustrations (they are a husband and wife team). Her illustrations are done in woodcut and pencil with realistic detail, and make the characters endearing and somehow vulnerable. Amos’s drippy nose, pink from blowing, and his sad smile are quite heartwarming.
ALA Notable Children’s Book, Younger Readers Category, 2011; New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books, 2010; Caldecott Award Winner, 2011.
Friendship, Animals, Social Skills, Parts of a Story
There are many books on the subject of illness and caretaking, including Sniffles for Bear (Becker), Fletcher and the Falling Leaves (Rawlinson), and How to Heal a Broken Wing (Graham).