Who Sank the Boat?

Who Sank the Boat


  • Fun story
  • Rhyme and repetition for beginner readers
  • Beautiful artwork


  • Questionable physics
  • Potential to provoke extended philosophical discussion, just before bed time


Who Sank the Boat?, by Pamela Allen, is one of my favourite books to share with Hannah.


Who Sank the Boat? tells the tale of five farmyard animals who decide, for no particular reason, to go for a row in a rowboat. Inevitably, as is given away by the title, the boat sinks.  This is hardly surprising, given a cow, a donkey, a sheep, a pig and a mouse have all piled into a rickety old rowboat that is clearly designed to hold a maximum of three people.

The intrigue of Who Sank the Boat? comes from trying to figure out which of the animals is ultimately responsible for the sinking of the boat. Each animal enters the boat, one by one (some more gracefully than others). Each time a new animal gets in, Allen questions whether it was he or she who was responsible.

Learner readers will enjoy the use of rhyme and repetition. At a year old, Hannah enjoys looking at the pictures . I always add in the noises that each animal makes (a sure-fire way for her to enjoy any book).

Older readers may begin asking difficult-to-answer questions, such as “How could a 750kg cow possibly get into such an unseaworthy vessel?” So be prepared to either make something up or praise them for their undeniable grasp of reality – whichever suits your preferred parenting style.

*Spoiler alert* The boat sinks when the mouse, who is last to enter, carelessly launches himself into the boat. It is in essence a retelling of the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. This does pave the way for particularly thoughtful four-year-olds to engage in philosophical debate about whether it truly was the hapless mouse’s fault (as all the other animals clearly believe in the second-last picture), or whether everyone that participated should be taking some responsibility.

Who Sank the Boat? is on regular rotation in our house. Although it is a quick and simple read, Pamela Allen’s simple, yet masterful use of language and engaging artwork make it enjoyable to read again and again and again…

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