A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by his wife Erin E. Stead, A Sick Day for Amos McGee is a story that teaches the importance of friendship and dedication. Written with gentle humor and touched by colorful illustrations, I found this book is more then deserving of its Caldecott Medal and its standing in The New York Times top ten best selling children’s books.

The General Plot

Readers follow the daily routine of elderly zoo keeper Amos McGee as he goes to work and, although busy, always makes time to spend and enjoy with his numerous animals friends there, doing things like playing chess with the thoughtful elephant, or sitting with the shy penguin. Then one day Amos McGee wakes with the sniffles and his routine is broken when he cannot make it

Who/What’s in A Sick Day for Amos McGee?

The characters in this story are great. Each one brings their own dimension to it that captivates us as readers. Simple and kind, they are ones that most anyone will love, especially children. All animals except for Amos McGee himself, it’s a colorful cast that includes a rhinoceros with allergies, an owl who is afraid of the dark, and tortoise who enjoys racing, to name a few. There is very minimal dialogue between the animals and even Amos, but the book works perfectly this way. The characters add depth and are clearly conveyed, in part by great illustration, with not too over the top wording.

How It’s Written

Philip C. Stead wrote this book in such a way that kids and adults alike will undoubtedly enjoy. Whether you are reading it out loud to children, or they are reading it themselves (or even reading it to you), it has a wonderful rhythm that reads steadily and in a way that even very young children will have good time following. The ways that the characters present themselves also leaves room for creativity, for example if you were reading this book in a read aloud it would be very easy to make up imaginative voices or actions for all of them.


Honestly, the illustrations bring easily just as much to this book as the words themselves. The detailed, beautiful pencil drawings and woodblock printings by the authors wife can only be understated as there are few words to describe how truly lovely they are.

The pages are mostly black and white, punctuated with hints of color, so your attention is drawn to the objects that are the main focus in the story. For example, Amos Mcgee’s house is blue while all the others lack any color at all. At the same time all the white space moves the reading along at a leisurely pace that you can easily enjoy.

The illustrations bring depth to the story, so good they could almost be a separate story themselves.

There are subtly placed objects throughout the book that layer it warmly, the penguin carrying his red balloon around, a mouse that shows up often but is never mentioned, where Amos McGee’s teddy bear winds up, the kind of drawings that make up a book you can easily fall in love with.

The characters are extremely expressive and everything is shaded with details that bring to life a wonderful take on the world in which Amos and his friends live in.

Who Should Read It?

Truly a book a person of any age could enjoy, it strikes as a particularly good book for children between the ages of five to eight.

Our Final Amos McGee Review

A Sick Day for Amos Mcgee is one that is now permanently in my collection of favorite children’s books. It stands on its own as a wonderful story, but add to that the fantastic illustrations and you have the recipe for a great and timeless book, and by timeless I truly mean timeless. When you pick it up it feels like you’ve known the book your whole life. It doesn’t matter much when it was written, it could have been a hundred years ago, fifty, or today.

Everything in the book means something that touches us. The way Amos and the penguin both sit with their feet turned in, how the tea kettle and the stove look comfortably old fashioned, even the little mouse that keeps the teddy bear company at the end.

It is woven through lessons and themes for readers to draw on that have been prevalent in children’s books before, how much friendships are to be cherished, how the dedication that goes into being a good friend is well worth the time it takes, but they are made into something special in A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

Who can say exactly what makes up every component of a great children’s book. There’s the story of course, and the illustrations, but there’s that something else too that makes us love them, and whatever that thing is, Amos McGee has.

What Did You Think of a Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead?

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