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Children's Fiction Environment

This is the Boat That Ben Built

by (author) Jen Lynn Bailey

illustrated by Maggie Zeng

Pajama Press Inc.
Initial publish date
Mar 2022
Environment, General, Deer, Moose & Caribou, Fishes, Birds, Stories in Verse
Recommended Age
4 to 8
Recommended Grade
k to 3
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2022
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


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 Jen 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.

About the authors

Jen Lynn Bailey’s passions for environmental science and education are evident in everything she does. After studying Integrated Science Studies at Carleton University and earning her Bachelor of Science in Education at Martin Luther College, she went on to earn her Master of Fine Arts in Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has worked on numerous wildlife research studies in the field and in the lab, and has taught both in an elementary school and in a college professional writing program. Today Jen is a policy and planning analyst for Science Promotion and Operations at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Her first picture book, This is the Boat That Ben Built, combines her passions in an engaging introduction to ecology. Jen lives in Ottawa, Ontario.


Jen Lynn Bailey's profile page

Maggie Zeng is a children’s book illustrator, graphic designer, concept artist, and animator.

Born in Montreal, she attends Concordia University and previously received the Outstanding Achievement Award in Applied Arts Technologies at Dawson College. Maggie loves making story-driven illustrations that convey a feeling of adventure and wonder through fun characters and magical environments. Her first picture book is This is the Boat That Ben Built.


Maggie Zeng's profile page


  • Winner, Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award
  • Commended, 2022 The Children’s Book Council “March: Hot Off the Press” feature

Editorial Reviews

Praise for This is the Boat that Ben Built

2023 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Picture Book Award Winner

2022 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens selection

2022 Ontario Library Association "Best Bets" selection

April 2023 SCBWI "Celebrate the Earth" Reading List selection

2022 SCBWI Recommended Reading List feature

2022 The Children’s Book Council “March: Hot Off the Press” feature

2022 BookFlap “Finding our Place in the Universe” feature

“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” School Library Journal

“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.”—YA Books Central

“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.”—Youth Services Book Review

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.”—The International Educator

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.”—CM Magazine

“Early readers (ages 4-7) will enjoy chanting along with the text.”Winnipeg Free Press

“Young readers will enjoy the fun story and quality illustrations.”—Metroland Media

With its lyrical text and amazing tapestry of illustrations, this book is destined to become a classic.”—CLCD - Children’s Literature

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.”—Sal's Fiction Addiction

“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.”—Book Time

“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

“5 out of 5 stars…The text is delightful! There is a lilting rhythm as each page adds a repetitive line to the text…There are so many clever little details in this book…I love the beautiful illustrations! The artwork reflects the sunlight on the water in the most attractive way…Ben is such a cute little character, and all the animals are adorable!” —Luminous Libro

“Beautiful picture book—this one has it all….This makes for a great read-aloud to young children, and a great addition to any lesson on ecosystems and river animals.”—Mrs. Makes Reading Fun

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