Boris van der Borsch is a tough, massive, scruffy, greedy, fearless, and scary pirate with a tough, scary- looking crew. When his pet parrot dies, though, preschoolers see that even the toughest pirate can cry. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy who stows away on the ship in the very beginning of the book, and whom Boris and crew leave back on his home shore at the end of the story, prompting the boy to cry as well. It is a subtle but strong subplot readers will enjoy. The watercolor artwork shows Boris and his crew in all their scruffy, tough pirate glory, with angry faces and bristly beards. The text is rendered in a simple, black font that matches the solemn brevity of the story. Tough Boris is an American Library Association (ALA) Notable Children’s Book (1995).
This is a great book for a pirate storytime, as it portrays pirates as capable of sensitive feelings on top of being rough and tough. It shows young audiences that everyone cries when they are sad – even a mean old pirate. It can be used with more fun pirate fare to lighten the mood, or it can be used on its own to get kids talking about feelings. Children would enjoy a Jolly Roger handstamp as a memento of their day, and there are many printable treasure maps available online, for attendees to color in, take home and start their own search for buried treasure. The British Columbia Public Library has very good Pirates Storytime theme that includes songs and fingerplays.