|Image from Amazon.com|
Winner of the 2011 Caldecott Medal, this understated picture book features the dedicated and loyal friendship between zookeeper, Amos McGee, and his friends, the zoo animals. Amos is a man of routine and although he’s a busy man, he visits his friends once a day. The time Amos spends with each of his friends is special and unique and shows Amos’ dedication and love for his friends. One day when Amos cannot work because he is sick in bed, his friends take the bus to take care of him, just as he has taken care of them.
The illustrations expand upon the text, giving the reader deeper insights into the characters. The design and are layout are simple using details to draw you into the story. Color is used sparingly, but with great impact. The palette, like Amos, is soft and gentle. The use of woodblock printing and pencil creates very delicate, detailed illustrations. The illustrations do such a wonderful job of celebrating the little things. There aren’t fireworks and parades; instead the celebration is in the details.
This book is about dedication and loyalty to your friends. Although this is not explicitly stated in the text, it is implicit in the care and attention Amos gives to the animals. Amos, long-limbed and wrinkled, is a quiet, observant protagonist who knows exactly what to do to make the time he spends with each of his friends time meaningful and special. It’s a timeless story about the little things we do to show how much we love and care for one another.
After reading this book, ask the children what they do for their friends, siblings, parents, when they are sick and need cheering up. Do they bring them soup and juice? Watch movies or read books together? Are they very, very quiet so that person can rest? Have they ever had to visit a sick friend or relative in the hospital? What was it like?
Talk about the duties of a zookeeper. The book mentions that Amos has a very busy day besides visiting his friends. What do you think he does? Some things to mention are feeding, grooming, cleaning enclosures, helping to give the animals check-ups or medical attention, as well as talking with people who come to visit the zoo. Ask the kids if they’ve been to the zoo, what animals they saw, and if they met a zookeeper.
After all that talking, get the kids up with a game of Animal Walk. Give each child a chance to be the zookeeper and lead the rest of the group in walking like a particular animal.