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Tough Boris


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About the Author

MEM FOX is the author of many acclaimed books, including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Possum Magic, Koala Lou, Time for Bed, and, for adults, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. She lives in Adelaide, Australia. Kathryn Brown lives in western Massachusetts.


This is an enigmatic, slightly troubling book. It opens, `Once upon a time there was a pirate named Boris van der Borch. He was tough. All pirates are tough', and continues in the same vein. The reader learns that Boris (like all pirates) is greedy, fearless, scary etc. Picture books in the tough-guy-gets-come-uppance genre usually take a comical twist, but Tough Boris ends with the lines, `But when his parrot died, he cried and cried. All pirates cry. And so do I'. This strange ditty is (almost) cemented in narrative by Kathryn Brown's bold, cartoonish images. She shows a shipload of pirates finding treasure - and a violin which is then stolen by a cabin boy, who goes on to mourn the parrot with Boris, then is put ashore by the pirates. That final, tearful line surely belongs to this boy, but why? Why is he sitting alone, watching the ship disappear? The pictures tell a tale, but one which requires much guesswork, or perhaps sheer imagination. The pleasure found in this book will largely depend on the reader's willingness to ponder, to make links, and ultimately to create their own story. Nicola Robinson is a Blue Mountains-based writer and editor. C. 1998 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

Resisting the temptation to reveal everything, author and illustrator instead give imaginative children something much better - a picture book that luxuriates in pure possibility.-The New York Times Book Review

PreS-Gr 2-Tough Boris is a treasure. This easy-to-read picture book features a repetitive, engaging text; a very popular subject; and an interesting subplot played out in the colorful illustrations. Boris von der Borch is a scruffy and fearless pirate who is nonetheless tender enough to cry when his pet parrot dies. While the brief text simply lists his attributes (and those of all other pirates), the energetic watercolors paint the larger picture. Boris and his crew dig up some buried loot and divide it (unevenly, of course), squabble over a prized violin, and enjoy the cabin boy's impromptu concert (after he's been caught stealing the instrument from Boris). As the story ends, the boy is taken ashore, mourning his exile from the ship but still clutching the precious violin. A compelling and entertaining tale of adventure.-Lisa Dennis, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

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