Amos & Boris by William Steig

Amos, a mouse, lived by the ocean. He loved the ocean. 

He loved the smell of the sea air. He loved to hear the surf sounds – 

the bursting breakers, the backwashes with rolling pebbles.”

What’s the Story?

The story follows Amos, a curious mouse who lives by the seaside, as he embarks on a grand adventure. Filled with the spirit of exploration, Amos builds a boat and packs it with provisions. He includes all the essentials: freshwater barrels, biscuits, a compass and sextant, and, of course, a yo-yo. Everything goes smoothly, until:

 

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.

 

Talk about a surprise! But just as Amos begins to wonder what it would be like to drown, something unexpected happens. He is saved by a whale named Boris. The two become friends and eventually must part. Amos promises to repay Boris for saving his life. Boris is touched but laughs. How could a weak little mouse save a big strong whale like him?

Why is it Great?

Amos & Boris draws inspiration from the age-old fable of The Lion and the Mouse. Amos & Boris, however, places a greater emphasis on friendship and kindness. While the lion may threaten to eat the mouse in the original fable, the whale does not threaten to drown his new acquaintance. Rather, Boris is fascinated by this alien creature from a world he himself can never experience and they become fast friends.

 

This book has also become a beloved item in our household. If you’re familiar with William Steig’s wonderful watercolor illustrations and refreshingly well-written text in works like Doctor De Soto then you’ll already know what to expect from this book. It does not disappoint.

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