This is the Boat that Ben Built

This is the Boat that Ben Built
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
March 15, 2022
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A humorous exploration of a northern river ecosystem with an intrepid young boatsman is paired with an extended author’s note about its ecology and key species.

Young Ben sets out to explore the river equipped with a sturdy boat, some sample-collection gear, and his scientific curiosity. Along the way he meets a black bear taking a swim, a moose all wobbly and slim, a goose with a gorgeous grin, and a heron all proper and prim…but things really start happening after the owl HOOs loudly on a whim.

With fresh, easygoing verse from author Jenn Lynn Bailey and art full of movement and light from illustrator Maggie Zeng, This is the Boat That Ben Built is a compelling entry point for conversations about ecology, food webs, and species diversity. Ben’s excursion―watched from the shore by his mother and faithful dog―is an outdoor adventure pitched perfectly for kids who dream of independence and exploration, parents who value safety and loving supervision, and educators who seek engaging fiction enriched with information. The book concludes with an eight-page Author’s Note that spotlights facts about every animal Ben has met and invites readers to think like an ecologist about the ways in which they are all connected.

Editor review

1 review
fun buildable picture book story about ecosystems
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
THIS IS THE BOAT THAT BEN BUILT is a beautifully illustrated buildable story about the river ecosystem. Ben has built a boat and is taking it out on the river, seeing many animals along the way, with a humorous ending of the ripple effect that they have on one another when the owl hoots loudly. The story is told in the building "This is the boat that Ben built" followed by "This is the river that carries the boat that Ben built," and so on. The backmatter includes information on the ecosystem and the various animals featured in the story.

What I loved: The illustrations are really lovely and capture the river and its animals in a way that is sure to appeal to children. The buildable story is great for toddlers and preschoolers who will appreciate the repetition and understanding the way that things begin to relate to each other in the story. There is a lot of simplicity to this story that works perfectly for this age group. The backmatter is a nice addition, with some additional context and basic facts about the animals.

The font is easy to read, and I appreciated that the color changes as needed with the background to make it easier to see. Although the story builds, the amount of text on each page is relatively brief, making the pages turn quickly, which is great for the youngest of picture book readers. With the backmatter, this would work well for classrooms or at home learning about ecosystems, animals, and the ways in which we interact with them.

What left me wanting more: As a small thing, I do wish there had not been pinching (the heron pinches the moose) and biting (the moose bites the bear), but that is a relatively small concern for older picture book readers and more a concern for toddlers/preschoolers who like to imitate.

Final verdict: A beautifully illustrated picture book, THIS IS THE BOAT THAT BEN BUILT is a fun, buildable story that teaches about river animals and ecosystems.
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