Considering this is book won the 2011 Caldecott Medal, I’m hardly the first person to sing its praises. If you are not familiar with it, you’ll be wanting to find a copy at a bookstore in your area.
The story involves a zoo keeper named Amos McGee, who is attuned to the personalities of the animals in his charge and works to accommodate them. He runs races with a tortoise, for instance, and the tortoise always wins. The owl is afraid of the dark, so he reads stories to him. The penguin is shy, so they just sit together in companionable silence.
Then one morning Amos wakes up sick and can’t go in to work at the zoo. The animals take it upon themselves to visit him and return the kindness he has always shown them. They play games with him, read books to him, and generally keep him company until he feels better.
I like how this book shows a loving relationship between a caretaker and his charges. It also sends a strong message that if you treat others kindly, they will return the favor, without sounding the least bit preachy. The illustrations are done in pencil and woodblock, giving the book an old-fashioned feeling, though it is brand new. Every page features animals big and small – look for the hidden mice and birds throughout the story. Even his bedspread at home has an animal theme, decorated with a peacock feather pattern.
Great read for an afternoon home sick or as a bedtime story!