• Happy birthday Charles Keller (Best Joke Book Ever).
  • It’s the birth date of Anna Sewell (1820–1878), Black Beauty.
  • Painter Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) was also born on this day. Read Vincent’s Colors by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Van Gogh: The Touch of Yellow by Jacqueline Loumaye, and Vincent van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub.
  • In 1858, Hymen Lipman patents a pencil with attached eraser. Hence, it is Pencil Day! Read The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman, and Brand-new Pencils, Brand-new Books by Diane deGroat.

Today marks National Doctor Day, when we should show our personal doctor appreciation with a card or a gift. It commemorates March 30, 1933, the first use of anesthesia in surgery. If by any chance you want to give a book as a gift, for yourself or your doctor, I can think of no better title than the Caldecott Winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

Philip C. Stead’s quiet text, illustrated by his wife Erin, has become even more powerful for me with each reading. The palette of this book and distinct but not too strong black line causes the reader to slow down, pause, and relax. With retro colors, the book might well have been published in the same time period as some of the Ellen Raskin gems like Nothing Ever Happens on My Block. Both the Steads understand you don’t have to scream at children—you can whisper.

Amos McGee, a kindly zookeeper, lives an ordered life—every day he eats the same things, rides the number 5 bus to work, and enjoys his day on the job. We watch Amos play chess with the elephant, race the turtle (who has never lost), or sit with a very shy penguin. After he lends his handkerchief to the rhinoceros, he ends his day by reading stories to the owl.

But the next morning he wakes up with a cold and chills—and Amos stays home for the day. A lovely picture shows him cuddling his teddy bear, his rabbit slippers on, and a wee mouse under the bed. Because the animals miss their friend, they take action. In two wordless double-page spreads, they wait for and board the number 5 bus and bring a balloon to their friend Amos McGee. He plays with the animals until they all go to sleep—because they have a bus to catch in the morning.

Whether used as a good-night book or just for story hour, A Sick Day for Amos McGee has been winning over one reader after another since its publication in June 2010. A book full of emotion and heart that never becomes sentimental, the story and pictures provide a quiet, gentle world for two- through eight-year-olds and adults. Devotion and friendship between humans and animals has rarely been so well portrayed. The artist shows how strong composition, with only a touch of color, can convey story and character. Using wood blocks and pencil, Erin creates character with the subtlest of line. On Doctor Day, the book reminds us that some of the best healing comes from the love and support of those we care for—even if they happen to be animals.

On any day, it reminds us that our greatest picture books only improve with each visit—and that we cannot imagine a time when we did not know them.

Here’s a page from A Sick Day for Amos McGee:


Originally posted March 30, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Award Winning, Bedtime, Caldecott
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for A Sick Day for Amos McGee


  1. John says:

    I hope Philip and Erin Stead continue to make books together. This book has a calming effect.

    Thank you for celebrating it!

  2. Erica S. says:

    I am absolutely enchanted by this book. For my sister-in-law’s baby shower I put together a book bag with copies of my favorite picture books for my future niece, and this book was right on top (and the only new book – the others I chose were all my childhood favorites). Madison was born yesterday, and I can’t wait to read this to her as she grows up. Hopefully she will love it as much as her aunt does!

  3. Jean says:

    A new favorite & a great gift choice for children & adults. Lovely!

  4. Deb Marshall says:

    This is one of my all time favourite books–a beautiful tale of love, friendship and caring for each other. And favourite illustration is everyone on the bus off to see Amos. Emotion and heart indeed!

  5. Diane says:

    Every detail of this book whispers good night, sleep tight, the world is all right. My granddaughter likes Amos “because the animals take care of him,” and my grandson likes the way they all fall asleep in the end. Amos, one of a handful of grandfatherly figures in picturebooks, meets his responsibilities, yes, but has fun in the process. Don’t we wish we could get there! I treasure my copy–the one I bought for myself. As you said, Anita, each reading brings new delights.

  6. G.Perry says:

    I’ve not read this but I’m about to!

    This review brought back memories of suddenly coming down with a serious illness as a child, and the doctor coming to the home where I grew up to giving me a Penicillin shot. The next morning, the world was new again! I still shake my head in wonder at that miracle. I think that lead eventually to me wanting to be a doctor. Though I never had the opportunity to do that, I have very dear medical friends at Mayo now.

    Can’t wait to read this one!

  7. Debbie says:

    So glad to see you celebrate this lovely book – it has the feel of a classic, without seeming old-fashioned.

  8. G.Perry says:

    “and, at sunset, read stories to the owl (Who was afraid of the dark)”

    Just read it. Lovely, lovely book. A delight!

  9. Carol Satta says:

    This book is understated genius! When I finished reading it the first time I exclaimed, “This book is an instant classic!” That’s an oxymoron, but it’s clear that it’s appeal will endure for generations to come.

  10. Rodney D says:

    As Erica said, this book is enchanting! I always buy my godsons books for birthdays, holidays, and just because I feel like spoiling them, and they are the target age for this book and i cannot wait to share it with them!

  11. Sam L. says:

    What a lovely concept! The posted illustration is understated but engaging with gentle images that do make for a great bedtime story. I love that the elephant can play chess!

  12. Erin Mawn says:

    Philip Stead and Erin Stead were at the 2011 Rhode Island Cjhildren’s Book festival, and they gave a presentation on the process they used in making A Sick Day for Amos McGee. I have never taken any art classes, so it was especially interesting to me to learn about the process of cutting wood blocks. When the couple signed books after the presentation, they used one of the elephant wood blocks in addition to their own signatures. :)

  13. Kruti says:

    My kids at school love this book. It is also one of my personal favorites. The illustrations are gorgeous

  14. Melissa says:

    I love this one. My students made the connection to Good Night, Gorilla and loved finding the balloon. It will be a classic!

  15. Mary D says:

    After seeing this book on this forum in 2011, I bought it. I read it and like it a lot, but I promptly put in my book stash and forgot about it. Then last week, my son called and asked if I could come take care of my 3 granddaughters the next day as the girls were home from school sick, and he and his wife both had to make presentations at work.
    As I was getting ready for mu challenging day, I was putting together a bag of things that would be new to the girls (my art stash and my book stash have lots of surprises) and I spied A Sick Day for Amos McGee. The perfect timing! The perfect book!
    It was enjoyed by all, several times that day.

  16. Anita says:

    Mary: Thanks for the post. I always like to hear reports of these books being used.

  17. I’m behind the times on this book, but I just read it yesterday in the bookstore, and I absolutely fell in love! The illustrations are so beautiful and delicate, and the story is so sweet. I love children’s books that don’t have a child protagonist, and I love books with animals. Really, it’s a perfect little picture book that I will definitely be adding to my collection!

  18. Gabby says:

    My daughter received this as a gift when she turned three in January 2011. We instantly loved it, but I wondered why I hadn’t read it as a child – its retro look fooled me until I realized it was new! I love how calm it is, and the gentle, quiet acts of kindness extended to and from Amos. I still read it to my girls whenever they’ll let me!

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