The Sick Day

by Patricia MacLachlan, Illustrations by Jane Dyer

Doubleday, April, 2001.
Picture Book, 32 pages.
ISBN: 0385321503
Ages 4-8

The Sick Day by Patricia MacLachlan The Sick Day is about a great deal more than how a child feels when sick. This wise and wonderful book touches on several subjects, such as needing comforting possessions when one feels ill, how comforting and funny an inept but kindly father can be, and how a little girl can also help take care of a sick father. The Sick Day was originally published in 1979, and was the first children's book written by Patricia MacLachlan. She went on to write the well-known Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark. Therefore, it is interesting to see how Ms. MacLachlan's special talent was obvious from her first effort. She writes with a sure understanding of human relationships and how they grow stronger when they share a little hardship.

Emily begins her bad day by announcing to her father that she has a stomachache in her head and a headache in her throat. She also decides to mention a toe that was stubbed the previous year, since she already has her dad's attention. Dad dutifully puts Emily to bed and brings the requested favorite stuffed animals. Of course, one called Moosie is missing. Dad finds a doll named Freda while looking for Moosie and Emily's money while looking for the thermometer. Father pulls out all the towels and sheets while continuing his search for the missing thermometer, but only finds hair elastics with which he complies with Emily's request for ponytails. One by one, the loving father's misadventures with home nursing care add up to a bearable day for Emily. And Emily is only too happy to try to take care of her father when the obviously exhausted parent succumbs to his daughter's virus. Mother stays home from work to put away towels, sheets and to restore order. The underlying humor of the situation serves to lighten the story and the lessons it teaches.

The Sick Day is recommended for ages five to eight. Most five year olds would find reading the book alone to be challenging. But this is not a book to read alone. It is a book to be shared. Jane Dyer's light touch with the illustrations matches the story very well. Since this is a story about love and tender feelings, pastels shades done in water colors add to the overall tone of the story. Emily's eyes are big, and a beautiful chocolate brown. Father is large, but gentle, and when he finally comes down with Emily's complaint he looks appealingly pathetic. You have to feel sorry for him.

Bringing back The Sick Day in 2001 was an excellent idea, and bringing it back with Ms. Dyer's illustrations helps a new generation enjoy the story. After all, as we all know, an excellent story deserves to be revisited many times.

--Sarah Reaves White

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This review was published in the June, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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