This is the Boat that Ben Built Reviews

School Library Journal

“Bailey’s debut puts an ecological spin on “This Is the House That Jack Built,” in a cumulative tale of a boy exploring a northern river ecosystem. Dark-haired, fair-skinned Ben heads downstream in his very own boat. Safety first as Ben, as well as the grown-up and dog watching from shore, wears a life vest, even though Ben sails solo. This is a simple and gentle introduction to northern wildlife.”

YA Books Central

“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….

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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Youth Services Book Review

“This book in rhyme borrows the scheme of ‘The House that Jack Built’, and perks it up with a nature theme. Set in the Northern Forest, the story starts with Ben putting the finishing touches on a rowboat, then setting off down the river, with his pet dog and Mom keeping apace on shore. The progressive rhyme relates how the fish, the beaver, the loon, and other animals coexist in the forest around him. When the hoot of owl startles the heron, a comedy of reactions takes place, ending with fish jumping right into Ben’s boat.

This is a sweet, rhyming early look at ecosystems in the forest. Back matter talks about keystone species, and asks readers questions about the story.”

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The International Educator

“The text uses repetition as ‘moose strolls by bear taking a swim by the goose that glides by the loon that floats by the beaver in the river that carries the boat that Ben built’. Fun to read over and over with young students and create your own story based on animals your students may spot in their own surroundings. Nonfiction information on each animal is supplied in back pages.”

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CM Magazine

“Montreal-born artist Maggie Zeng has filled the pages with digitally-produced illustrations which show a tranquil waterway flanked by inviting woodlands. Misty tones dominated by green and peach may at first seem to make the outing appear to be a child’s perfect dream. But wait: readers can see that Mom and the family pooch are following along, continually watching from the bank as Ben floats, dips a bucket, naps and uses his binoculars to spy something that needs more careful examination. (And – safety first! – he is seen to be wearing a life jacket throughout). All of the animals are brought to life by the active poses that have been employed which let readers know this a fully-realized adventure. One of the most engaging spreads shows Ben leaning over the side of the little boat with a scoop net while all around fish big and small rush through the bubbling teal water.

Extensive back matter discusses the ecosystem of a northern river and offers a page of information about each of the animals introduced in the body of the text.

This Is the Boat That Ben Built is a collaboration that exudes a sense of happiness. It is the meeting of pleasant story and informative nonfiction that will be useful in primary classroom and library collections.”

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CLCD – Children’s Literature

“What could be more amazing than experiencing an ecosystem through a story? Or floating down a river into a new world that you can explore? This tale has echoes of the traditional “The House That Jack Built” story, yet Bailey weaves a narrative that is distinctly modern, which Zeng has filled with wondrous illustrations. A young boy named Ben builds a boat and explores a world filled with a fish, a beaver, a bear, a goose, an owl, a heron, and a moose while floating down a river on a sunny afternoon. Young readers will enjoy following Ben’s adventures and encountering creatures that leap across the river and become larger-than-life within this imaginative journey.”

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Winnipeg Free Press

Ben floats through a memorable day in his hand-built wooden boat. But when an owl startles the heron and leads to a quick reversal of the creatures in the forest, Mom joins him in the boat. For readers who want to learn more there’s extra info on each of the wild creatures.”

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Metroland Media

“This Is The Boat That Ben Built is a nature, cumulative story that explores a northern river ecosystem. After building his boat, Ben sets out on a river where he sees various animals including fishes, a beaver, a loon, a moose, a heron – and more. Young readers will enjoy the fun story and quality illustrations.”

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“A hooting owl provides enough drama to reverse the direction the words have taken, bringing the story full circle. The lively text is just right for early readers with its repetitive language. Paired with Maggie Zeng’s luminous digital art, it is sure to be read often and soon independently. Filled with movement and humor that adds to its appeal, it will encourage talk about the way an ecosystem works, food webs, and how many animals flourish in a healthy environment.

Back matter includes an author’s note about the what makes an ecosystem.”

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Book Time

“First, Ben is going down a river and he sees some great creatures – fish of course, but also a beaver, a loon, a grinning goose, a bear and moose, among others. But just when you think you can’t read the same words any longer, an owl “whoos on a whim and startles the heron all proper and prim,” and a chain reaction of disaster follows until Ben gets a surprise in his boat. At the end of the book, Bailey talks about the Northern River ecosystem and goes into information about the creatures she featured in her book.

The pictures are adorable.”

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Canadian Children’s Book News

“Patterned on the familiar “The House That Jack Built” nursery rhyme, Jen Lynn Bailey’s text is fun and easy to read, flowing smoothly with the right cadence that pulls the reader along. Maggie Zeng’s digital illustrations are beautiful and full of detail. Gentle humour infuses the story in both text and illustrations, and readers will enjoy the sense of wonder always to be found in natural settings.”—Canadian Children’s Book News

The full review can be found in the Spring 2022 issue.