Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sick Day For Amos McGee

I can't remember which book blog I was perusing when I first happened upon Amos.  I wish I could.  I'd link back to it, give that book maven deserved kudos.  And thank her for introducing us to a book that made my kids cry. 

Thanks for that.  Thank you very much.

I love the library.  Hate having to return the books though.  Especially if there's an Amos or Holly in the to-be-returned stack as there was today.  We've renewed Amos twice, the limit at our local library.  And when we were stuffing our book bag full of returns, Pippi shouted, "Oh, no!  Not Amos.  Please not Amos!"
And then she turned on the waterworks.

I hate turning in books they love.  Makes me feel a bit ogre-ish.  By the by, Pippi had this great idea - it really was genius on her part - to turn the books in at the check-out desk, ask the librarian to hold Amos and Holly and a few others, pay our smallish fine, then check out again our reserved stack.  And we did.  No more tears, thankfully.

On our first reading of Amos, I was a tad let down.  This book has been hyped so much - Caldecott buzz included - so that I was expecting . . . well I don't know what I was expecting, but surely not such a simple story.

But after the third or fourth time through, I began to see it's charm.  The illustrations are beautiful.  Understated and muted.  What few colors Mrs. Erin E. Stead chose to lay over pencil line drawings are perfect.  Not a stray mark or gratuitous splash of color mars the pages.

And the story is charming.  Amos McGee, a kindly, old man, who incidentally still sleeps with a teddy, wakes each morning and goes to his job at the zoo.  He makes his rounds each day, visiting his animal friends.  He plays chess with a thoughtful elephant.  Runs races with the tortoise.  Sits with a shy penguin.  Lends his handkerchief to the rhinoceros.  Reads to a skittish owl.  Then when Amos gets sick, his friends take the bus, and visit him at his home.  

And delightful are the surprises hidden in plain sight throughout the book.  A mouse and bird, who the kids and I believe to be conspiring with one another.  A wandering red balloon (think Goodnight Gorilla).  A rabbit reading a paper on the bus. 

This book satisfies on so many levels. 

We may just have to make a trip to our favorite bookstore for this one.  Unless the librarians don't mind us turning it in.  Checking it out.  Turning it in.  Checking it out . . .

Here's a peek at the other books that made the I'll just die if I have to turn them in stack.

The Quiltmakers Gift by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail de Marcken - this one is a bit heavy on the moralizing, but Pippi likes it and the quilt patterns are lovely
The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter and Giselle Potter - Gotta say my piece.  I hate story or picture books that try to teach vocabulary, by highlighting big words which point the reader to a glossary, a la Artsy Fartsy. It's just so contrived and phony.  I don't like books that push morals or values either.  Please just write solid books, with varied syntax and juicy words in context, and let the book speak to the child.  And although this book does highlight words and includes a glossary, I like it.  It is an inventive picture-bio about Selig, a collector of words, who becomes Wordsworth.  Give it a try.  I'm not exactly plugging it.  I'm not completely sold on it.  But it is worth a try. 
Natalie & Naughtily by Vincent X. Kirsch - Not by a Brit, but I can't read this without slipping into a British accent.  I just can't help myself.  Don't exactly know why.  About two girls, Natalie and Naughtily Nopps who live on the top floor of a large department store.  Reminds me a bit of Eloise.  Pippi adores it. 
First Snow by Emily Arnold McCully - read my comments about Snow here.
Adele & Simon by Barbara McClintock - I'm tired.  Feel like wrapping up this post.  This book is a good one.  Deserves more of a write up, but as I mentioned before, I'm done.
Posy by Linda Newbery and Catherine Rayner - Sweet little cat book.

That's all folks.

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