Moral Issues In: "A Sick Day for Amos McGee"

By Laura Raphael, Children's Services Coordinator

What happens when the person who normally cares for others needs caring themselves? In A Sick Day for Amos McGee, written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead, the zookeeper and master animal caretaker Amos McGee is - ah - ah- AHCHOO! - taken ill. Now, instead of Amos reading stories to Owl and playing games with Elephant and running races with Tortoise (who always miraculously wins) at the zoo, the animals come to his house to do these things for him.

While kindness and friendship are obvious moral values in this gentle and lovely book, the idea of mutuality - that we share more in common with others than differences, and that we are each tied to the other whether or not we look like each other - is deeply embedded in both the story and the illustrations. Because Amos treats the animals with a loving care that recognizes their individual personalities, he is also teaching them that they are all important and worthy of care. Their compassionate treatment of him when he needs their attention closes the circle, and The Golden Rule of mutuality is affirmed.

As adults, we are used to flipping between being a caretaker and being cared for, but for young children, it is a new and exciting idea to be the one to care for others. Just notice how children enjoy treating special dolls or stuffed animals (or even treasured books) - feeding them, putting them to bed, reading them stories. A Sick Day for Amos McGee gives children more practice in seeing the caretakers in their lives (Mommy and Daddy, usually) as deserving of care as well.

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