Tag Archives: grouping

Day 90 – A Sick Day for Angus McGee

“A Sick Day for Angus McGee” by the husband-and-wife team of Phillip C. Stead (author) and Erin E. Stead (illustrator) is a true treasure. The story is sweet, funny and comforting, and the charming pencil and woodblock illustrations, which won the Caldecott Medal for 2011, make me grin every time I look at them.

AmosAmos McGee is a sweet old man living in a tiny wood-panel house nestled in between taller downtown apartment buildings. Every morning he wakes early, packs a lunch, and rides the bus to work at the zoo, where he spends the day with his animal friends. He plays chess with the elephant (who thinks carefully about each move), races the tortoise (who always wins), sits quietly with the penguin (who is very shy), lends a handkerchief to the rhino (who always has a runny nose), and at sunset he reads to the owl (who is afraid of the dark). One day, however, Amos wakes up with a bad cold and can’t go to work. His animal friends miss him and make the trip to his house by bus to spend the day catering to Amos’ needs as he always caters to theirs.

I just adore this book. The idea of spending your days in such a simple but fulfilling way is so compelling – it’s a little escape just to read the story. I also love the way in which Amos is so considerate of each friend’s unique needs, and how his thoughtfulness and selflessness are repaid in kind. Then there are the illustrations, which augment the humor and heart of the story with their little details. Amos himself has such a friendly face, and his clothes and accommodations lend to the comforting old-fashioned feel of the book. The expressions and posture of the animals give insight to their personalities: the look of satisfaction on the face of the tortoise as he wins his race with Amos for the nth time, the crossed feet and sideways glance of the shy penguin, or the elephant’s contemplative pose as he carefully arranges chess pieces in a row while waiting on his friend. In fact, my favorite part of the book was actually wordless, as we saw the animals walking to the bus, waiting on the bus, and riding the bus to Amos’ apartment…I could almost hear the “intermission” muzak playing in my head as I flipped from one page to the next, waiting along with the animals for their story to “start up” again when they reach Amos.

I think we will need to track down some more of Ms. Stead’s books. We thoroughly enjoyed her work on “and then it’s spring” as well. Our oldest actually liked the illustrations in that book even better than those in Amos McGee, but I think that’s splitting hairs. Oh, and one more thing: we couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that Amos’ friends come in a group of five (a key foundational math concept for little ones), and that the grouping is underscored by the number “5” on the side of the bus as the friends all ride to see Amos. We have confessed to our dorkiness previously – as you will see here.


Day 70 – Waiting

Feel like standing around with a big, goofy grin on your face? Then I suggest you get your hands on Kevin Henkes’ Caldecott and Geisel Honor book, “Waiting”waiting. We read it together tonight, and my goofy grin is still plastered on my face as I write.

The story centers on five little toys and their life on the windowsill of what I assume is a small child’s room. Like many small children, these toys spend most of their lives waiting. However, these toys don’t show the same restlessness of a small child waiting…for a parent to read to them or take them to the park…for the weather to clear up…for Christmas morning to arrive…. The toys on the windowsill are waiting with a peaceful expectation – waiting to see what will happen next and knowing from experience that something always does. Other toys come and go from the sill, someone leaves them gifts (an acorn from the yard, a shell from the beach), they wait and watch, and sometimes they sleep. All the while, just outside the window are “…many wonderful, interesting things…”: changing seasons, colorful rainbows, dramatic thunder storms, sparkling fireworks, dazzling ice crystals, familiar shapes in the clouds, and the moon “…to keep them happy”.

“Waiting” is a sweet, simple book, and it’s no exaggeration to say that we absolutely adore it. The text and drawings are precise but poetic and remarkably expressive – hallmarks of Mr. Henkes’ style. There are several illustrations with no text, but enough of a story taking place on each that we may have spent more time discussing the pictures and expressions on the pages where there was no reading to be done. The way in which the toys are moved around, laid down, and presented with gifts reminded us of watching our youngest arrange and rearrange her own toy animals along shelves and windowsills at our house.

Perhaps the most grin-inspiring page comes close to the end of the book just after a matryoshka cat with patches joins our contented quintet. They look her over and ask themselves, what could she be waiting for? She doesn’t seem to be waiting for anything in particular…until you turn the page to find out “Oh, but she was!” – four nesting kittens have been hiding inside her. There is something about that “Oh, but she was!” that made us laugh out loud. We are dorks.

If you don’t believe me regarding the dork comment…let me tell you this: one of the reasons we decided to include this book on our list originally was the fact that…wait for it…the animals on the windowsill come in groupings of five! Grouping is a basic math concept and a key component of early math learning for young children. Not only are there five animals on the sill originally, but their new nesting friend adds another grouping of five – and the grouping concept is reinforced by the way in which the animals are positioned on the sill. The book ends with “Now, there were ten of them. And they were happy together, waiting to see what would happen next.”

(I told you. Dorks.)