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Tough Boris

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  970 ratings  ·  131 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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Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  970 ratings  ·  131 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.
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This children's picture book has very simple and repetitive language that still sounds rhythmic. A lot of the story is told through pictures. The pictures of in the book are all mostly frameless, but sometimes it will be cropped and framed. This book about a tough pirate and a stow away shows readers that people are not always what they seem at first.
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: 2011, picture-book
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
Danielle Hernandez
I read this book after finding it in a booklet on clinical grief activities with children and adolescents. It was categorized as a book on death and grief for young children. After reading thought-provoking reviews on Goodreads, I had to experience it for myself. It had me thinking long and hard and I read it slowly...a few time. As other reviews suggest--the plot lies in careful examination of the pictures. With guidance toward certain visual clues, it can be a great read with an early audience ...more
Diana Labani
Oct 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Tough Boris has stunning illustrations that capture the audience's attention the minute they open the book. The plot is simple, it is about a seemingly tough and cold pirate opening up his vulnerable side to a young boy after his parrot dies. As cliche as it sounds you should not judge a book by its cover. Boris seemed like an average pirate; greedy, fearless, and scruffy. There was more to him however and he stuck out from the rest, he had a compassionate side to him and formed a deep bond with ...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.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A fun picture book by Mem Fox about the emotional life of the pirate, Boris von der Borsch. The text is repetitive and children will love learning to follow the pattern to see what comes next for the pirate crew. Best read aloud and with gusto!
Jun 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A simple story with a deep meaning, really enjoyed it.
A gentle reminder that even tough guys can cry.
Anastasia Tuckness
What does it mean to be tough?
May 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Pirates can cry too. Loved the pictures and how they told a story of their own.
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.
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.
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.
This was great for STEM and Stories - just beware, includes the death of a pet.
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
The tale of Boris Von Der Borch, known far and wide as Tough Boris, as told by a young stow away on the pirate's ship.
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
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
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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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