• Felix Salten (1869-1945) author of Bambi was born on this day, as was Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935), illustrator of The Water Babies, The Everyday Fairy Book, and The Jesse Willcox Smith Mother Goose.
  • In 1628, Puritans settle Salem, Massachusetts. Read Tituba of Salem Village by Ann Lane Petry and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.
  • In 1839 Cherokee leaders draft a constitution for the Cherokee Nation. This followed a yearlong forced evacuation of Native American’s from their homes in the southern United States to Oklahoma, known as the Trail of Tears. Read Only the Names Remain by Alex W. Bealer, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man Who Gave His People Writing by James Rumford.
  • It’s Fight Procrastination Day, which must be the anecdote to yesterday’s Be Late for Something Day.
  • It’s Read a Book Day (though every day is a day to read a book!). Read A Book by Mordicai Gerstein.
  • Happy Birthday to Toni DiTerrlizi (the Spiderwick series) and Susan Kuklin (Beautiful Ballerina).

“On the sixth of September, with a very calm sea, he waited till the high tide had almost reached his boat; then, using his most savage strength, he just managed to push the boat into the water, climb on board, and set sail.” Who is our sailor with savage strength? A mouse named Amos; his boat, the Rodent.

In Amos and Boris, legendary storyteller William Steig provides a yarn that will please all sailors, animal enthusiasts, and children and adults alike. Steig was always the master of a fabulous premise for a book. In Amos and Boris he explores this idea: What if a mouse, lost at sea, gets saved by a whale? Hence Amos finds himself a passenger on the back of Boris, who speaks in exquisite phrases like “Holy clam and cuttlefish!”

But long after Boris has gone back to sea and Amos returned to land, there comes a day when the small mouse must help the great whale. The ending of this picture book for ages six through ten rounds out a totally satisfying story. In this celebration of friendship—of the small and the large—Amos is finally able to bring their saga full circle. “They knew they might never meet again. They knew they would never forget each other.” Playful and profound, the book also deals with serious questions: “Would his soul go to heaven? Would there be any mice there?”

Once described as “a sublime doodler,” a phrase that pleased Steig, he created artwork from these doodles that always delights young readers. But his books have also been graced with beautiful language. He never talks down to children nor does he dumb down the language of his books. Words like luminous or phosphorescent appear in the text; there is a beauty and cadence to the prose. As is typical of Steig books, adults and children can savor each page and image and follow a unique story.

So, on September 6 take a sail with an unforgettable rodent and his friend. Because of recent movies, William Steig may best be known today for Shrek!, now celebrating more than twenty years of publication. But Amos and Boris stands along with Doctor De Soto, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble,and The Amazing Bone as one of his greatest triumphs in book form. First published in 1971, it remains one of those stories that linger in the memory long after the book itself has been closed.

Here’s a page from Amos and Boris:


Originally posted September 6, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Animals, Mice
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Amos and Boris


  1. Jory Hearst says:

    I think this is my favorite of all of William Steig’s. As a child & as an adult. I remember I used to look forward to going to my cousin’s house, because we often would read it there all together. I love that bittersweet moment you pulled out already, when Amos & Boris realize their paths might not cross again, but they know they profoundly impacted each others’ lives. So good.

  2. Linda C. says:

    Anita, Thanks for introducing me to this book. It sounds wonderful, and I have ordered it. Also, thanks for all of your posts. I have learned about so many books that are new to me with your introductions. I like the single page from each one–just enough to get the “feel” of the book–your insightful comments, personal notes, and quotes. You have helped me expand my knowledge of children’s books and to remember old favorites as well as learn about some new “friends.” Thanks for a bright spot in every day!

  3. Anita says:

    Jory and Linda: Thanks so much for your comments — they are wonderful to see so early in the morning.

  4. Vikki says:

    Anita, Ditto Linda! You came to Plum Creek a couple of years ago and were delightful. I’ve been a fan ever since! Today is my birthday and I’m so happy to know of this book. How in the world could I have missed it? The festival is in two weeks. We are very excited about our slate of authors!

  5. Anita says:

    Vikki: Plum Creek is such a wonderful festival — you do everything right!

  6. Kelly says:

    I just finished reading this book for the first time! What a great story of friendship! Thanks Anita for introducing new books, and reminding us of old ones :)

  7. Debbie says:

    Love this book (and anything, actually, by Steig)! I first read it when my daughter’s school sent copies to the entire kindergarten over the summer – a wonderful book about friendship for the first-day-of-school.

  8. G.Perry says:

    This site gives me something happy to look forward to every day.

    And this book sounds like a treasure, and I can’t wait to read it.

  9. Anita says:

    Gordon: I was thinking of you this morning when this posted. I think you will really like it. Let me know.

  10. Mary D says:

    I recently found our old, old copy of this book in a box of memorabilia left from our children’s childhood. I sat right down to reread it. Now I will have to get one more copy so the grandchildren in both families can enjoy it (and hopefully learn its sweet wisdom).

  11. G. Perry says:

    I never came back and responded after I read this book last year.

    My response; Fantastic book. Enough to own it. I love the story and I love the art.

    Thank you Lady Anita.

  12. Anita says:

    Gordon: Thanks, as always, for your reader’s report. Yes, this is definitely an “own” book.

  13. Bonny says:

    I love Steig. My personal favorite is “Abel’s Island.” How does he manage to be whimsical, profound, wry and graceful all at the same time!

  14. Mari says:

    I found your site when I was looking to share my first favorite book with others on facebook and I will share it with the parents and children’s book lovers I know.

    Amos and Boris was the book that I wanted to be read to me over and over before I could read and the book that began my life long passion for reading.

    Carlos Ruiz ZafĂłn wrote in The Shadow of the Wind:

    “Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”

    Amos and Boris is that book for me. :)

  15. Fahmida says:

    Amos and Boris is a favorite book of mine of William Steig but I have other books that are my favorite what a book.I LOOOVE IT!

  16. G. Perry says:

    I said this a long time ago on this post: “This site gives me something happy to look forward to every day”.

    That still stands today.

    I’ve owned a copy of Anita’s 100 Best Books for Children for over 10 years now. . I bought it on March 17 2008.
    The list in that book still tops very single children’s book list I’ve every read, and I have read a ton of them.

    I’ve marked in it well north of 100 times. It is so worn from use that the pages area falling out and I just started reading it again. I’m going to need a new copy I keep avoiding that because I love the first one so much.

    Thank you Lady Anita.

  17. Anita says:

    As always, thank you. You have truly been my best reader.

Leave a Comment

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .

The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .

And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large.