Amos McGee takes good care of his friends at the zoo. He plays chess with the elephant, keeps the shy penguin company, reads stories to the owl who is afraid of the dark. It’s clear that Amos loves the animals, and they love him back. When Amos doesn’t arrive at the zoo one day, though, the animals worry. At first they wait in their usual spots, polishing chess pieces, stacking up story books, but soon enough they decide that waiting is not going to solve the problem. They pile onto a bus and go to Amos’s house, where they find him sick in bed. Without a second thought, each animal cares for Amos in his own way, echoing the ways that Amos has cared for them. It isn’t long before Amos is feeling much better, and everyone tucks in for a good night’s sleep before catching the bus back to the zoo the next morning.
In Amos’s world, friends take care of each other according to what each good at, and what each needs. Stead demonstrates this matter-of-factly, avoiding any hint of preachiness, but offering plenty of ideas to start readers thinking about how they can help to take care of someone else. The illustrations form an integral part of the story, not only elaborating on the text, but also occasionally moving the story forward independently. The illustrations also add a lot to the rereadability of the story, introducing all sorts of details that will take multiple reading to catch. My favourite (aside from the penguin’s socks) are the little bird and mouse that appear on nearly every page, whether waiting at a tiny bus stop, sitting listening to Amos’s story, or tucked under the rhinoceros’s scarf for the night. Highly recommended for both children and adults.
Enjoy an interview with Eric C. Stead, the illustrator of Amos McGee on Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast.