Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Flu Season Friends

Statistically speaking, February is flu month. Although flu can strike during other months, on a bar graph of numbers of reported cases each month, February wins the chicken soup trophy. What children dislike most about flu, besides feeling terrible, is missing their friends. Here is a prescription for housebound snifflers.

A SICK DAY FOR AMOS McGEE by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, Roaring Brook Press, 2010

Amos is a kindly zookeeper who talks to his sugar bowl and counts as his friends the elephant, tortoise, rhinoceros, penguin, and owl.

One day Amos is too sick to go to work. He is missed. The animals decide to visit Amos. They even ride the #5 bus, the very same bus Amos rides to visit them.

I loved sharing this with a couple of bright pre-school classes. They identified with what it’s like to be sick. They thought it was the right thing to do for friends to come visit and bring a red balloon. (The cover clearly shows the penguin carrying a red balloon.)

As I read, the children sneezed (covering their sneezes with crisp white tissues, of course) along with the allergic rhino and poor sniffling Amos, and made sympathetic and friendly hooting sounds when Owl’s name was mentioned. Poor Owl. We knew his secret: he’s afraid of the dark.

The children quickly made friends with the little elephant puppet who came along to help me read the story. (After all, the elephant’s picture is on the cover.) In the meantime, grown ups in the room wondered how that red balloon managed to survive the trip. Ah, the beauty of fiction!

These tiny students were well coached. They knew, as one little girl said, the illustrator is the one who “colors the pictures.”

Although she has undoubtedly colored a lot of pictures, this is the first children’s book Erin Stead has illustrated (her husband wrote the text) and it won the Caldecott. Now the pressure is on. What will she do next?


  1. I love these little scenes you create for us of your experiences reading with children. It really comes alive!

  2. These youngest readers were lucky to have you reading for, and playing with, them! Aa-choo!

  3. Vicky and Robyn: I know you enjoy being a visiting author in schools as much as I do.


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