Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Tough Boris

Fox, Mem (Author)
Brown, Kathryn (Illustrator)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 1998. 32 pages
First published: 1994
ISBN: 9780152018917 (paperback)
9780152896126 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Picture Book

Text Elements:

character, recurring patterns, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This short, sweet story reduces language to a bare minimum, while employing an expressive vocabulary. Repetition and modification move the reader forward: “He was massive. All pirates are massive. He was scruffy. All pirates are scruffy.” Meanwhile, the illustrations provide the plot of a rip-snorting, high-seas adventure.

A young boy stows away on a pirate ship. When the greedy Tough Boris (“All pirates are greedy”) sees someone sneaking off with his newly plundered violin, violence breaks out on the ship. Boris catches the boy down below, playing his violin for an appreciative parrot, and forces him to play for the entire crew.

Menacing expressions, bristly faces and sharp weapons are all softened by detailed, watercolour illustrations in warm, sunny colours. When his beloved parrot dies, the images show a chastened Boris, as the boy offers the use of his violin case for a bird coffin. The pet receives a burial at sea with full honours, and Tough Boris himself escorts the boy to safe shores. The strength of the language in this book is most evident in its final lines, which create a powerful bridge between the vulnerable child and the tough pirate —while speaking directly to every young reader’s experience: “. . .he cried and cried. And so do I.”

  •  

    Talk about emotions and how everyone feels sad at some point. Why was it so surprising to see the pirate crying?

  •  

    Create an anchor chart identifying different emotions. Add some appropriate emoticons.

  •  

    Write a story using the same format as the book but featuring a different main character. Use the anchor chart to find emotion words (e.g. an astronaut being brave and adventurous but feeling lonely; a clown appearing happy and funny, yet feeling sad).

  •  

    Talk about the emotions portrayed in the book.

  •  

    Create an anchor chart with words about emotions (anger, angry, frustration, gratitude, etc.). Add to it as you come across new and relevant vocabulary.

  •  

    Create a new character, or take an existing one, and using the story as model, write about contrasting emotions.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Drama
  • Music