Allison Hammond

Here is a book that exemplifies that happy combination where words and pictures carry equal weight and yet somehow create a whole that defies arithmetic. A Sick Day for Amos McGee is the first collaborative effort by the husband-and-wife team of Philip and Erin Stead, and even their dedication is intertwined as each acknowledges the other in a never-ending circle of words. Their overlapping partnership produces illustrations and text in easy harmony for this understated tale sprinkled with subtle humor.

Amos is an elderly zookeeper who lives alone and methodically follows his daily routine. He schedules time to interact tenderly with each animal according to its need. In turn, when he doesn’t show up for work, the animals reciprocate by taking the bus to check on their sick caretaker. They know just what he needs and gently modify their activities to adjust to his condition. With their friend on the mend, they all fall asleep in a friendly huddle.

The background scenery is as orderly as Amos’ life. The visual rhythm of the uncluttered illustrations reinforces the simple pattern of his day, but the pictures hold some surprises of their own. Cleverly embedded numbers, an errant balloon and stowaways in the periphery all invite a closer look. The unusual mixture of pencil drawing and softly colored wood block printing enhances the peaceful tone and introduces a new look to picture books.

This is a heart-warming story, comforting without a lot of fuss. It’s an obvious choice as a reassuring read on a child’s sick day or before bedtime, but it would also be one to keep in mind for any time a quiet break is in order.

The Steads’ expressive depiction of mutual caring has me anxiously anticipating future installments from this new team. 

Here is a book that exemplifies that happy combination where words and pictures carry equal weight and yet somehow create a whole that defies arithmetic. A Sick Day for Amos McGee is the first collaborative effort by the husband-and-wife team of Philip and Erin Stead, and even their dedication is intertwined as each acknowledges the […]

You don’t have to be a dog person to enjoy Please Take Me for a Walk, but it can’t hurt. Author-illustrator Susan Gal begins her second picture book with lively end pages that invite the reader into the fascinating social life of dogs as they mix and mingle. From there we follow one perky pup into the body of the book, where he turns and eagerly solicits the reader, “Will you please take me for a walk?” With his bright eyes and playful expression, this little dog is extremely persuasive as he enumerates the enticing possibilities of a walk.

Using fresh illustrations in a layered blend of computer collage and charcoal on paper, Gal creates a welcoming world filled with a captivating variety of dogs and their colorful human counterparts. She enhances the sense of hustle and bustle by superimposing dotted lines tracing the trails of the busy pets across a grass-green map. The abundant activity in the friendly village warrants repeated exploration by children, and though this book is wonderful as a read-aloud, the clear picture clues, spare text and repetition make it a nice choice for beginning readers as well. Perhaps they will recognize the need to plead.

Meanwhile, our persistent protagonist reiterates his one-on-one appeal. Even if you’re not swayed by the promise of the wind lifting your ears or the sun warming your belly, he’s bound to clinch the deal with his final flattering request. Flashing those adoring eyes, he delivers the zinger by revealing that the most compelling reason to go for a walk is, and I quote, “so everyone can see my best friend and me.” Were you wondering who was on the end of the leash that trails tantalizingly off the page? Pick up this book, and it could be YOU!

 

You don’t have to be a dog person to enjoy Please Take Me for a Walk, but it can’t hurt. Author-illustrator Susan Gal begins her second picture book with lively end pages that invite the reader into the fascinating social life of dogs as they mix and mingle. From there we follow one perky pup […]

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