Family Book Festival

Family Book Festival: Alexis York Lumbard with Amos & Boris

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 February is Family Book Festival Month!

Family Book Festival
Family Book Festival is a project to help chase away the doldrums of winter by jumping into the favorite books of our author, illustrator, blogger friends.

It’s our hope that, not only will we provide reading families with amazing new booklists and activities, but also give the parents a chance to experience a blissful walk down memory lane as they share favorite books from their childhood.

This week we are so excited to have author Alexis York Lumbard. North Carolina native and a busy mother of three, Alexis  is the author of The Conference of the Birds, her first published children’s book, which was illustrated by the well-known author and illustrator Demi. We thought we’d mix it up a bit and have a little “Q & A” with Alexis. Enjoy!

JIAB: What was your favorite book growing up?

Alexis: Charlotte’s Web. Such a delightful book

JIAB: Does your family have a favorite book everyone likes to read together?

Alexis: YES! Amos & Boris by William Steig

 JIAB: Share with us why you like Amos & Boris

Alexis:  There is a shelf in our family library upon which only a select group of books may sit.  Many gifted authors, including the late William Steig (November 14, 1907 – October 3, 2003), grace this shelf.  Perhaps you know Steig by one of his more famous books like, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble or Shrek, which inspired the hilarious movie franchise. But have you heard of Amos & Borris?


There are many reasons why Amos & Boris sits upon our honorary family shelf.  And even though it was difficult, I tried my best to narrow those reasons down to two.

 1. It’s A Beautiful Story of True Friendship

Amos & Boris is a simple story of a mouse and his friendship with a whale. It seems an unlikely friendship, doesn’t it? Amos loves the ocean and wonders what lies far away on the other side of the water.  So builds himself a boat and sets sail.  Late one night while gazing at the stars, Amos rolls right off the ship and into the ocean.  In one of the most philosophical and honest passages of picture book prose, Amos confronts mortality.  But thankfully along comes Boris, a mountain of a whale, to Amos’ rescue.  As the two make their way back to land, they develop a deep and abiding friendship.  The kind of friendship that neither time nor distance (nor size) can change.   Amos returns to land and Boris the sea, but fate will bring the two back together and this time, Amos becomes the unexpected helper.  Amos & Borisis magical, memorable story about the deep bonds, which bind the best of friends.

Amos & Boris 1


2. A Language That Dazzles

I also admire the language and style of Amos & Boris. It is lyrical and evocative.  Take for example the following passage:

“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.”

Today it is difficult to find editors willing to publish books written with high language.  Books are weighed with lexicon scores;  “is this language appropriate for the targeted age?” it is often asked. Obviously the answer to this question is no, for words like phosphorescent, luminous, and immense, are not commonly found in the vocabulary of a five year old.  But shouldn’t good literature not only “entertain,” but so too elevate?

So as long as the fad of “snarky” and “edgy” books with irreverent characters persists on the market today, then I (and my family) will stay home and curl up with those old trusted friends who line a special part of our bookshelf. -Alexis York Lumbard


Create a visual, also known as a concrete or a poem.  Choose either Boris or Amos and fill your visual poem with qualities that represent one of these characters.  For examples of visual poetry please see:

Here are some instructions to make one of your very own !!!


First, what is a concrete poem?

A concrete poem is one in which the words make a shape and the shape itself conveys the central idea of the poem.  So if you are writing a poem about Amos, it is literally in the shape of a mouse.  If you are writing a poem about Boris, it is shaped as a whale.

  1. Don’t worry it is easier than it sounds.  (And the shape needn’t be perfect!)
  2. Now that you know what a concrete poem is, choose either Amos or Boris.
  3. Get out two pieces of paper. The one is for the final copy so place that aside. With the other piece, write your poem. Do not worry about the  shape yet; just write your poem. Concrete poems don’t have to rhyme.  It doesn’t even need to be full sentences.  If you want, you can just write a list of adjectives that describes the qualities found in the characters of Amos or Boris (whomever you have chosen).
  4. Now that you have your poem written, draw with a pencil the shape you choose from step 3. Write you poem into the shape. You may have to play around with the shape so that your poem fits.  Below is a concrete poem I once wrote about moon sighting during the holy month of Ramadan, a special holiday for Muslims.

concrete poem


 Write to a friend or family member whom you haven’t spoken to or seen in a long time.  Tell them about Amos & Boris and how it reminded you of your friendship. Consider telling them how wonderful it would be to go on an adventure together and where you would take them.  Lastly, be sure to remind them how much they mean to you.

Alexis York Lumbard headshotBio:  Alexis York Lumbard is a mother of three and children’s book author from Boston.  Her debut picture book, The Conference of the Birds,written for children ages 6 and up, is an 800-year-old parable about a flock of birds journeying to meet their king.  Award-winning illustrator Demi lavishly illustrates this book.  Her next picture book, Angels, with illustrations by Flavia (Wisdom Tales Press December 2013) is a playful celebration of the idea that each child has their own special guardian.  Alexis also has an upcoming book app, The Story of Muhammad.

Alexis York Lumbard and family