10 reasons why I adore “A Sick Day for Amos McGee”

2 Dec

I haven’t posted in a long time, sorry friends! I’d like to share my love of this wonderful book, a love that grows with every reading.

1. The author and illustrator, Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead, are husband and wife.  As if that in itself isn’t adorable enough, the story behind the creation of this book is a tear-jerker. Erin, an art major, had a traumatic art education and it took her time to return to drawing after graduation.  Her husband, Philip, secretly sent her one drawing of an elephant to his editor, who loved it.  Together, they created this amazing book (and it sounds like it was a wonderful healing process as well). Philip wrote about Erin in the Horn Book. Erin’s Caldecott acceptance speech is both moving and inspiring.

2. The book has a universally appealing theme that attracts people of all ages.  Seriously, we’ve all been sick and we’ve all wanted to be taken care of while feeling unwell.  The fact that Amos’s friends figure out how to use public transportation (another relatable theme) to visit him and keep him company while he’s ill, is awesome.  Real friends come by when you aren’t feeling or looking your best and his animals pals prove they are worthy friends.

3. The reactions to this book are refreshingly surprising.  When I first read this book, I just fell in love with both the story and the beautifully detailed illustrations. To me, this felt like a quiet, subtle, yet wonderful story. When I read it aloud to a group of K-2nd graders, they cracked up at parts I didn’t expect–such as when Amos plays chess with the elephant and when he lends a handkerchief to the rhino. Their genuine delight was a nice reminder to me that this book isn’t as serious as I first thought (that would be my grown-up slant making it seem so serious!). I look forward to seeing how other groups of children and adults react.

4. The illustrations are gorgeous. Let me say it a bit differently: the illustrations are phenomenal.  Now, there are millions of children’s books featuring animals.  In many cases the illustrations, while cute and funny, don’t depict animals very accurately, which usually is ok with me (although after this book, my standards may have changed).  But Erin has done something I think is pretty unique–she’s drawn the animals in a very realistic manner, yet given them just enough expression that we can relate to them. Wow.  The pencil drawings with woodblock prints evoke a timeless feeling, and we can see the time and care put into each page. I would love to hang a print from this book in my house. Each page is a joy to look out, explore, and discover. I feel the illustrations stand on their own (no offense, Philip!) and that this could be a wordless book.

5. The mystery of the red balloon.  Do I totally understand why the red balloon appears on some pages and not others? No. Do I like that this is a mysterious and magical part of the book that has a thousand possible explanations? Heck, yeah! It reminds of the wordless film, The Red Balloon, a film I’ve always loved.

6. Ok, so while I do believe the illustrations can stand on their own, the text is simple, elegant, and succinct.  There are some great vocabulary words such as clanged, swapped, amble, and limbered.   Philip makes good use of repetition, but doesn’t overdo it or make it cheesy. Also, Amos talks to his sugar bowl!

7. The animals don’t talk.  Enough said.

8. The main character’s name is Amos. Not a popular name in these modern times, Amos is a Hebrew name meaning “to carry”, “to carry a load” or “burdened”.  I like thinking that Amos carries the joy of friendship to his animals every day and in return, they journey to carry comfort and fun to him when he’s sick.

9. Amos lives in an adorable single family house snugly tucked between high-rise buildings. It reminds me of both my own single family house and the house in the film Up.  Amos is clearly old-fashioned with is house, his wood stove, and his glass milk-jar vase.  That feels right and makes me  yearn for a neighbor just like Amos.

10.This book makes an excellent gift. We’ve officially entered Holiday season and I believe this would make a perfect gift for a young person, animal lover, book lover, or art lover that you know. Books are the best gifts, especially with a personal note written in the front with the date. Some of my best memories are of receiving a special book on Christmas morning with an inscription from my parents of why this book would engage me and how loved I was.

So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t explored this book, go to your library or local independent bookstore! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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