Not in America: Boris by Andrew Joyner
Here on the blog I’m sometimes keen to note those titles and series available in parts of the world that are not the United States. Folks will send me great books from around the globe but even in my new fancy dancy position as a Materials Specialist I cannot buy those books for my system unless they’re published in my own country. So, rather than suffer in silence, I’m just going to taunt the rest of you stuck here in America with me by showing you the books that none of us can have.
Early chapter titles are always a bit difficult to locate, particularly when you want something with a reading level above Frog and Toad but below something like Toys Go Out. It’s a tricky reading age. Maybe that’s part of the reason I was so taken with the Boris books by Andrew Joyner. We Yanks probably know Joyner best for the illustrations he did for Ursula Dubosarsky’s incredibly fun readaloud The Terrible Plop (and word on the street suggests that the pair will be producing an elephant-related picture book next, so keep your eyes peeled for that one). Joyner’s an Aussie illustrator and he has this fun eclectic style that unfortunately we’ve only ever seen over here in that one particular book.
The Boris books, which have never come to our fair shores, follow in a long and worthy tradition of exceptional Australian early chapter books. I kid not. In my library we’ve great affection for titles like Wombat and Fox: Tales of the City and Joy Cowley’s Snake and Lizard (which, admittedly, is from New Zealand so I’m not entirely certain why I’m even mentioning it here). The Boris books, for their part, are best equated with Captain Underpants. Not in content (there are remarkably few talking toilets to be found here) but in structure. Joyner moves effortlessly between small written sections and big illustrations with comic style text. The books are just slightly younger than Dav Pilkey’s in terms of reading level, and the pictures are full color glossy illustrations. Really gorgeous.
As far as I can tell there have been only four Boris books at this point; Boris, Boris Gets a Lizard, Ready,Set,Boris and Boris Sees the Light. They each star a plucky warthog and his friends and you wouldn’t even notice they were Australian were it not for the occasional extra “u” they toss into their vocabulary words now and then. There are also some great terms like “chooks” for “chickens” and the like. But above all, they’re just ridiculously fun boy books. Boris isn’t obnoxious or rude. He’s your average joe and that’s just fine. Plus, at the end of each book is a small instructional section for the kids, telling them how they can make shadow puppets, homemade compasses, lizard puppets, and backyard obstacle courses.
So if you happen to have a trip to Australia coming up, be sure to nab these at your nearest bookstore. Great stuff. Hope some big, smart publisher gobbles up the rights and brings them here someday *bats eyelashes*.
Read the Kids Book Review interview with author/illustrator Andrew Joyner
Watch how Boris has changed in Andrew Joyner’s guest post at the same site
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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