Cabrera transmutes the simple children’s song into a participatory singalong with a nod to wildlife diversity.
A girl puppy (she has eyelashes and wears a dress) and a boy kitten (he wears a shirt and shorts and has no visible eyelashes) row, row, row that little boat down a green river through a jungly setting. The first verse is the familiar one, and as the pages turn, they meet different animals, all with cute childlike faces and each paired with a verse that encourages animal noises from the audience. “Row, row, row your boat / Closer to the shore. / If you see a lion smile, / Don’t forget to roar. / ROARRR!” In addition to the smiling lion, the rowing pair encounters swimming mice, a monkey (“OO, OO, AH, AH!”), an elephant, a crocodile, a tiger and singing doves (“COO!”). As it gets dark, puppy and kitten see mommy dog on the shore, and “wearily, wearily, wearily, wearily,” they “snuggle up and dream.” Thick impasto acrylics and clear colors with many shades of green underscore the dedication to Earth’s “disappearing forests,” though the illustrations make no attempt to create a recognizable, specific habitat. It may seem like a heavy message for this familiar nursery song; on the other hand, the original “life is but a dream” has philosophical and theological implications galore. Music and all the verses are appended.
Sweet, if freighted. (Picture book. 3-6)