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Tough Boris

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Boris von der Borch is a mean, greedy old pirate--tough as nails, through and through, like all pirates. Or is he? When a young boy sneaks onto Boris's ship, he discovers that Boris and his mates aren't quite what he expected.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published April 29th 1994)
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3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  918 ratings  ·  128 reviews

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Dec 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
I didn't really like this book at first. But it fit well for our pirate book club parties. Then after I read it for the tenth (or so) time, I discovered that I really liked the tender story told in the pictures and not in the actual words. We read it twice and Coco's book club party. First, just reading it, and then looking at the pictures and talking about the untold story, of the boy who loved his violin, and gave up the violin case for the pirate who loved his parrot. A book that teaches abou ...more
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, childrens
My niece and nephew both liked this book. It made it onto our reading list as part of my effort to fulfill my nephew's request that we read "a cool book." Pirates are always pretty cool, and Tough Boris did seem to live up to my nephew's standards.

There are two things about this book that really captured my attention. First of all, this is a story for young little kids, like my nephew, who think pirates are cool. Pirates are all tough, pirates are all massive, pirates are all scary, pirates are
Mary Train
Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Such a great book about he even the toughest of the tough need to cry. Is surprises me coming from Mem Fox! I wouldn't think Mem knows much about being tough, but she nails it with this pirate...and this book hooked the kids...a great, short book to read with children.
Dec 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-books
i read this book in shelter to kids who have learned strict gender roles. the basic message is: boys DO cry. and it's about a pirate, and the kids love pirates these days.
Here we learn that even big, tough, scary, fearless pirates cry sometimes.

Lovely illustrations by Kathryn Brown.
Oct 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-book, 2011
While the text of this is very simple and tells the surface story of a pirate named Boris von der Borch, the illustrations tell a deeper story of a young boy who sneaks onto the pirate ship to get his violin back and for a short while becomes part of the crew. I enjoyed this, although it isn't what I normally look for in a Mem Fox book. It would work great as an introduction to a lesson on pirates, though. It would also be a fun one to read on "Talk Like a Pirate Day" except it really doesn't co ...more
Apr 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I love the interaction of story and illustration in this book, though I regret reading it with my children (about death and unlikely friendship). It's not for the very young, though there are few words. I don't know what the audience should be, but it should be read. It's poignant, and the words and images are harmonious yet dissonant.
May 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Pirates are tough and mean and greedy, and Tough Boris is no exception. But when his pet parrot dies, even this pirate cries and cries. Finally a pirate we can relate to! Animated watercolor and pencil illustrations show us the action of life on a pirate ship.
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
This Book tells the tale of the pirate Boris von der Borch. He is a tough, greedy, mean old pirate. This book is written, and illustrated very cleverly. It contains both told and untold stories.
The Reading Countess
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
The illustrations lend a unique layer to the story of a boy who sneaks aboard a pirate ship only to learn that little boys aren't so different from scraggly old pirates after all.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Written with minimal text, Tough Boris by Mom Fox allows children and adults to think not only about emotions that everyone feels, but also about assumptions we make about people based on superficial knowledge. In this book, Boris von der Borch is shown in the illustrations doing things that pirates do, such as hunt for treasure using a treasure map, order people around, and fight others. The accompanying story is told minimally, describing character traits and actions that accompany each page. ...more
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
“Tough Boris” is not the greatest book to discuss gender roles. It tells a story about a pirate that is tough, scary, mean, and greedy. He, like other pirates, had a pet parrot. Along the route to get treasures, Boris displayed unbecoming characteristics like being scraggly, scary, and fearless. Along the journey, Boris’ pet bird died. Then he cried. I guess the moral of the story is that even the toughest guys cry. Crying is normally something assimilated with something that women do. At the en ...more
Meg McGregor
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
This would appeal to all children who love pirates - so that would include most of them!

It also demonstrates how close an animal and a human being can become! I liked that aspect of the story.

But I didn't really like the illustrations and I wanted much more text in the story.
Samantha Hanhart
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: repeated-phrases
The language in this book is very simple yet tells the story perfectly. It repeats the same two phrases with different adjectives over and over which can be helpful for kids whose reading skills are not as strong.
Anastasia Tuckness
What does it mean to be tough?
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thus story for young readers points out to all of us that even the toughest, roughest people cry sometimes. It sends an important message that we all have feelings which need expression.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it liked it
A bit odd, short but not necessarily sweet. Have to really look at the pics to see what else is going on with the violin.
Melissa Namba
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dnamba
great use of repetition and i love that it is about a pet.
This was great for STEM and Stories - just beware, includes the death of a pet.
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Pirates can cry too. Loved the pictures and how they told a story of their own.
A gentle reminder that even tough guys can cry.
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A simple story with a deep meaning, really enjoyed it.
Carole P. Roman
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tough Boris by Mem Fox illustrated by Kathryn Brown is a successful book on so many levels. Tough Boris is your average pirate. Not much to look at, he is tough, massive, scruffy and greedy, as are each of his crew. Each picture reinforces the description of both Tough Boris and his menacing mates. They engage in typical pirate activities, fighting, burying treasure and stealing from each other. When a violin and its case is stolen, Tough Boris seeks out revenge, but upon hearing the thief play, ...more
Kennia Torres
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The illustrations in this book make the book wonderful! the illustrations tell the story more than the words. This story is about a young boy who sneaks into Boris the Pirates ship to get his violin back. Tough Boris is the toughest Pirate of them all. However, he is in for a surprise when he realizes that the pirates are sentimental and they cry too. I believe this story is more for older kids because they really have to analyze the pictures in the story to understand the moral. Overall, it is ...more
Apr 23, 2013 rated it liked it

This was a very sweet book, and good for early readers. The simple and repetitive nature of the text would certainly assist early readers. There is about one sentence per page, and a great deal about pirates.

The best part of the story was clearly the end. While not a big surprise, per say, the theme of coping with grief and what is and isn't acceptable for "tough" people to do is particularly applicable to young boys. The art is good, and interesting, but not remarkable.

Likewise, the story w
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book is simple enough for two-year-olds, but complex enough for much older children, or even adults.

The trick is that the words (only a sentence or so per page, and mostly of the format "Boris was ADJECTIVE. All pirates are ADJECTIVE") only barely sketch out the story - the rest is in the illustrations, or else has to be guessed at.

At the end of the book, we find that when Boris' parrot died "He cried and cried. All pirates cry. And so do I", a line that echoes in the mind.

And that's it. We
Master story-teller Mem Fox combinesd forces with illustrator Kathryn Brown to tell this marvelous, many-leveled story. Don’t let the simple and at times poignant details of Boris von der Borch distract you from the intricate tale waiting in the drawings.

As Lao Tzu reminds us, compassion is the ability to express an openness to other people’s hearts. Boris teaches us not to be distracted by the tough exterior of those around us. Tough or gentle, sports enthusiast or chess master, outgoing or qui
This story is told with simple, repetitive words and more complex illustrations. It's about a big, tough pirate, which children who have heard other pirate stories will easily relate to, but then the illustrations show how music can be universally loved. It brings in the death of the pirate's parrot, and the universal feelings of grief and loss.
There is a lot to discuss through the illustrations (for older children) - can you spot how the stowaway gets on board? Why do you think he did that? Who
This book was moving along nicely until the whole dead parrot part. I'm not quite sure what Fox was going for here, humor or pathos. Either way, it just took too strange and sad a turn for me, and I certainly couldn't imagine reading it aloud to a group of preschoolers for pirate story time, which is why I read this beforehand. I suppose it could work well for letting a kid know that even the people who seem the toughest still feel sad and cry sometimes, but I'm not sure that message will really ...more
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Boris the pirate is mean, greedy, and tough. When his beloved parrot dies, Boris shows his soft and sentimental side.

Age/Grade Level: K-3

Instructional Ideas:
This book would be effective to teach students about Word Choice and Voice. After reading the story, the teacher should bring attention to the adjectives the author used and discuss how her word choice affected the story. Using a graphic organizer, students could brainstorm adjectives that describe Boris and use that to write a paragraph th
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Mem Fox was born in Australia, grew up in Africa, studied drama in England, and returned to Adelaide, Australia in 1970, where she has lived with her husband, Malcolm, and daughter Chloë, happily ever after.

Mem Fox is Australia’s most highly regarded picture-book author. Her first book, Possum Magic, is the best selling children’s book ever in Australia, with sales of over three million. And in th
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