amos and boris by william steig

At Papousse, we believe books are a fantastic way to adventure with our kids. Our Little Explorer Reads series introduces books to inspire you and the little ones in your life to explore.

We’re honoured to have Ashley from Ashley Degraaf Writer Photography (check her out on Instagram, ashley.writerphotographer) guest post with her favourite book for little ones.

Amos & Boris by William Steig

I have always been a book nerd. Now that I have kids I’m a children’s book nerd too. Searching out books with beautiful illustrations, funny rhymes, easy to read lines, comical or cute characters, and good stories and morals has become a big pleasure of mine.

William Steig’s classic tale of friendship and helping others no matter how different, with enough irony to even amuse parents, Amos & Boris fits in the realm of an all-around good children’s book in our house.

Before I explain why, here’s a little bit about the book.

Amos, a curious little mouse with a big sense of adventure, decides to build a ship and set sail on the sea inspired by his love of the ocean. He finds himself in need of rescue, as he falls overboard and loses sight of his ship, The Rodent. He’s rescued by Boris the whale who tells him he will take him to the Ivory Coast of Africa, where he was headed anyways. After they go their separate ways, and many years later, Boris finds himself in trouble and Amos finds a very clever way of returning the favour to his friend and rescuing him.

Reasons why we like the book so much:

The illustrations. The cover art itself is cool and well, this may sound strange to you, but the soft and simple pastel colours and the image of Boris the whale (with Amos the tiny mouse perched on top) fit our home’s nautical theme. I proudly display it on the top of our bookshelf in the kid’s loft space.

The text. I studied poetry in university and although I majored in journalism I dabbled in it for several semesters and fell in love. So of course, lines like, “…surf sounds – bursting breakers, the backwashes with rolling pebbles…” inspire that warm and joyful feeling when words take you to another place.

amos and boris phosphorescent sea

I especially loved this part:

“One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all. 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.”

Although this may seem a bit sophisticated for a children’s book, and the idea too big for a little one to take in to some, I don’t think it necessarily is. It provides a brilliant image of those moments of observing nature’s beauty while abroad and that feeling of complete wonder, also that overwhelming feeling of a universe so big. It’s also a great segue to talk to your little one about the story of Amos’ journey.

The moral.

Discovery. Defying odds. Adventure. Helping others in desperate times. Being there for friends, no matter how different they are from you. How everyone plays a very important role in the universe. These all play a part in this simple story of a whale and mouse becoming friends. How cool is that? Your child might not pick up on all of that yet, but some parts yes, and more later down the road as they get older. 

One day they might be the one reading it to their children too, totally immersed in all the lessons that can be learnt from this classic.

They liked it too!

And lastly, the kids love it and request it quite often. I guess that should be one of the most important aspects of why a children’s book is a favourite in the household, not that just mom thinks it’s a super groovy book that has cool images, poetic language, and great lessons.
amos and boris by william steig

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