Why We Chose This Book: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

The tender drawings and sensitive use of colour won A Sick Day for Amos McGee America’s biggest award for children’s book illustration, but the pictures are not the only wonderful thing about this book. The gentle story is full of implicit Jewish values presented in just the right way for our families with 3- and 4-year-olds.

Zookeeper Amos McGee treats his animal friends with compassion and understanding, so when he is too ill to go to work, they repay his kindness by visiting him at home and keeping him company until he’s on the mend. The animals’ care of the zookeeper is a demonstration of the Jewish concept of bikur cholim, or visiting the sick, which itself is an example of the wider mitzvah of gemilut chasadim -- acts of loving kindness.

As you may know, the “PJ” in PJ Library stands for pyjamas, and you’ll see that it’s spelled pajamas in this book. The majority of the programme’s subscribers and authors are American, so we in the UK are fortunate that our content advisory committee can request changes to words and spellings that will be unfamiliar to British children. In most cases these suggestions are accepted, and our alterations are used in PJ Library books in the United States and Australia as well as the UK. In the case of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, the word pajamas needed to be spelled the American way for obvious reasons. It’s apt that it’s this word that has given us the chance to tell you a little bit about what we do behind the scenes for our families here in the UK.