Dear Amos’s Sweater,
I was sorting through a huge box of donations last week when you fell out at my feet. As it was only last month that your author, the esteemed Janet Lunn, passed away, it seems almost as if you sought me out.
Your rollicking rhythms and infectious patter still makes me smile, even as you tell the story of poor Amos who must give up his wool to the farmer’s wife each season in order for her to make sweaters for her husband, Uncle Henry. Amos doesn’t enjoy this at all, because:
There’s a lot to love about your story. I have very fond memories of reading this book at bedtime to my nieces, who loved hearing about cranky Amos and his quest to stay warm. We had so much fun making up voices for Amos, Uncle Henry and Aunt Hattie. My niece Kate would always burrow under the covers a little more every time “Amos was cold” (likely in sympathy) and we would go through each of Kim LaFave’s colourful illustrations to find our very favourite sweaters. I appreciated the sense of empathy the kids felt at the time, and how they felt that poor Amos was treated badly. It gave them a gentle reminder that animals have feelings that are important to consider.
Looking back, I see that you tell kids that it’s okay to be grumpy about having to do something you don’t want to do, and that everyone has times when they push back but end up in a mess that they can’t get out of alone. You validate the feelings that small children get when they don’t have a say in what happens to them, and when they don’t like the decisions that are made on their behalf, such as when a parent decides that toys must be shared. Kim LaFave’s wild and string-y yarn drawings encouraged my nieces and students to draw their own versions of Amos in a cloud of yarn, and they posted their pictures on the wall with delight.
Apparently adults thought you were pretty great as well; this book has some shiny medallions on the front to signify that you won the “Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Medal” from the Canadian Association of Children’s Literature, the Governor General’s Award for Illustration and the Ruth Schwartz Award – pretty heavy medals for a modest thirty-two pages and an enthusiastic use of purple and yellow.
I’m so glad you literally fell across my path. The girls who once cuddled up with me to read you at bedtime are now in their late 20’s, and one will be getting married soon. Yet when I mentioned finding you at work, they immediately quoted their favourite lines and for a moment, they were mine to tuck into bed and to kiss goodnight. You are a wonderful story that many children have been delighted to hear, and I can’t wait to share you at story time once again.
P.S. One quibble though I know it’s grammatically correct: the single possessive apostrophe and additional “s” to create “Amos’s” continues to niggle my grammar hound senses. It just looks wrong, even though I know it’s right!
Amos the sheep is old and cold and tired of giving up all his wool. But despite his noisy objections, Aunt Hattie shears Amos once again and knits his wool into a brightly coloured sweater for Uncle Henry.
Poor Amos decides that this time he has had enough — and he sets out to reclaim what is rightfully his.
Amos’s Sweater was written by Janet Lunn, and published by Meadow Mouse / Groundwood, now Groundwood / House of Anansi Press. ISBN: 978-0-888998453, 32 pages.
Wondering why I’m writing letters to books? I’ve been inspired by Annie Spence’s lovely book, Dear Fahrenheit 451. Check out my introductory post for more information.