“Mommy, I want to go in the Amos McGee book. I want to go to the zoo,” my daughter said to me tonight.
Oh my little dear, what I wouldn’t give to go inside the Amos McGee book (also known as A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead and Erin Stead (Roaring Brook Press, 2010), too. I could play chess, run races and read books with a Caldecott-winning elephant, tortoise and owl. And my job, when we got to Amos’ house, would be to tuck his toesies under a blanket. They do look just a bit chilly.
And while we are dreaming, I wish I could be Philip/Erin Stead. If I had the money I’d buy every original print available through their website (http://erinstead.com) and cover my kids’ walls (or even the kitchen walls, for that matter) with them. When my writing is blocked, I read Mr. Stead’s words from A Home for Bird (Roaring Brook Press, 2012), Bear has a Story to Tell (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) and of course, that Amos McGee book over and over again.
When I am feeling the need to hear artists talk about THE PROCESS I listen to the Steads interview on NPR. When, as of late, I want to embarrass myself having a heck of a lot of fun, I sketch pictures of Bear and paint them with watercolors. I pretend my house overlooking some woods and a river is their 100-year-old barn in Michigan…
Just kidding about the last one, but I am obsessed. Who isn’t?
I bought A Sick Day for Amos McGee from The Little Read Book in Wauwatosa, WI (http://www.littlereadbook.com) just before my daughter’s first birthday. I asked for a recommendation, and the saleslady said that Amos McGee was the book she had been buying for all of her friends and family.
I started reading it to my daughter right away, and this was yet another book that she had memorized before she was two. I remember the first time, about a month before her second birthday, when I read, “One day Amos awoke with the sniffles, and the sneezes, and the chills. He swung his achy legs out of bed, curled them back again and said…” My daughter filled in the next word: “Ugh.” I tried again a few lines later. “Hooray! My…” I read. “…good friends are here!” she finished.
As the Steads acknowledge in their NPR interview, Amos McGee is unique because it is one of the only picture books out there that does not feature any children. Instead, we get lovable old Amos, who looks after his friends the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl by playing chess, running races, wiping noses and reading books to them at zoo where he works. But one day, Amos is sick, and his friends miss him far too much to stay put. They hop on the #5 bus and pay Amos a visit, showing their love by sharing with Amos everything that he has shared with them.
Much has been said about how masterfully this book is written and illustrated, and so on a personal Picture Book House note, I can say that what makes Amos McGee a winner for kids is the red balloon that floats around Penguin. The little bird and mouse that show up more often than not. The fact that this book involves a ZOO. That the cadence and rhythm of the language make it a perfect read at bedtime (or any other time, but it works really well at bedtime, probably also because it ends with Amos asleep surrounded by his friends). There is a big bus. Kids love busses almost as much as they love zoos.
My only hesitation is that Amos reads to owl because owl is afraid of the dark. Not wanting to plant any ideas in my daughter’s head, especially at bedtime, I always skip the two places in the book that refer to this phobia.
There will have to be more than one post about Amos McGee (and A Home for Bird and Bear has a Story to Tell) from Picture Book House because as my tagline explains, this blog is mostly about books that we cannot live without, and Amos McGee is one of these books.
It will be as ingrained in my kids’ childhood as Ping and Dooley and the Snortsnoot (another post, another day) are in mine.
Picture Book House rating: Read It Again, Mommy! (and take me inside of it, too, please)