Today’s read – Amos & Boris by William Steig

‘Overwhelmed by the beauty and mystery of everything, he rolled over and over and right off the deck of his boat and into the sea.’

Amos & Boris by William Steig

Amos & Boris is the first book I have read by William Steig. As the creator of the infamous Shrek character, I am surprised I haven’t read any of his books sooner. I will have to make up for that, starting today.

William Steig (1907 – 2003) was an American illustrator who started writing children’s books when he was sixty-one. He published his first children’s book in 1968 and continued until 2003.

As a children’s author/illustrator, he has published over thirty books, which left me in a position of where to start. After some research, I landed on Amos & Boris, initially published in 1971. The book is aimed at 5-7 years and is twenty-eight pages long.

The story centres around a mouse called Amos and a Whale called Boris.
Amos has an adventurous soul. He builds a boat called The Rodent and sets sail on the high seas. On one particular starry night, Amos, mesmerised by the world around him and deep in thought, rolls off the boat. The boat bobs away, leaving him floating in the middle of the Ocean.

Lost, alone and helpless, Amos almost gives up when Boris, a Whale, curious about what Amos is, bobs his head out of the sea, leading to a friendship between this unusual couple. First, Boris saves Amos, and then Amos, even though he is a tiny mouse, saves Boris.

The book explores some adult themes and does not shy away from them; when reading the reviews, this aspect was very divisive. In particular, the section where Amos is alone in the immense Ocean.

I loved the book and the illustrations. The story utilises a large vocabulary even though it is aimed at 5-7 years. Because the story is designed to be read out loud, this introduces vocabulary in an exciting way and doesn’t shy away from a longer sentence structure. All this leads to language learning in an accessible manner.

It explores the friendship of two unlikely creatures that live in two incompatible environments, land and sea, yet bond through their absolute acceptance of each other, their generosity of spirit and their fundamental similarity that transcends any of their differences.

Based on this book, I am most certainly looking forward to reading more from the author’s catalogue.


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