Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)

by Holling C. Holling

Paperback, 1980


Check shelf

Call number

J Ho c.2


HMH Books for Young Readers (1980), Edition: Sandpiper Books, 64 pages


A young Indian boy carves an Indian figure in a small canoe and sends him off on a long, adventurous journey through the Great Lakes to the sea.

Local notes


Media reviews

A young American Indian boy (no tribe indicated) carves a small canoe with a seated figure to paddle it and sends the two off on a journey from Lake Superior to the Atlantic Ocean. … This is the story of Paddle-to-the-Sea's many adventures over the four years it takes him to reach the sea. No
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information on American Indians in contained in the story.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
In twenty-seven brief "chapters" - each of which consists of a single page of text, decorated with black and white illustrations, and paired with a full-page color painting - Holling Clancy Holling sets out the story of "Paddle-to-the-Sea," a miniature wooden canoe carved by a young Indian boy in
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Nipigon country, Canada, and then sent out on a long journey toward the sea. As the canoe travels on its way, it journeys through all five of the Great Lakes, with detours and unexpected stops along the way, passing through many hands, and experiencing many years of adventure before eventually finding its way out the St. Lawrence River, and eventually, into the open sea.

An unexpectedly moving book, Paddle-to-the-Sea is both educational and engrossing, taking young readers on a geographic tour of the Great Lakes region of North America, from the rural Canadian wilderness north of Lake Superior, through all the various interconnected waterways - Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Eerie, Ontario, and the rivers which connect them - and finally to the sea, while also presenting the many human activities, from farming to heavy industry, that surround these important bodies of water. Chosen as a Caldecott Honor Book in 1942, it has a great deal of visual appeal, particularly the full-color, full-page paintings. One especially nice detail is the comparison of the shape of each lake to some figure or object - I never noticed that Lake Superior looks like a wolf's head, Lake Michigan like a squash, or Lake Huron like a trapper with his pack upon his back!

I was a little afraid, going in, that the depiction of the Indian boy who created Paddle-to-the-Sea would be egregiously racist (as is so often the case, with vintage children's books including Native American themes), but although there is certainly an element of the "mystically spiritual Indian guide" in his depiction (and some rather choppy statements, that could be interpreted as stereotypical "Indian" speech), I think there is also just a healthy does of curious and creative boyhood in him. Fanciful though it may be, I found myself thinking, while reading this story, that the release of Paddle-to-the-Sea, and his subsequent journey, could be interpreted as a metaphor for our words and actions - how they go out into the world, and affect the people around us; and how, if crafted with care, they might do great things, and connect us to people far away.

It's that sense of connection, that Paddle-to-the-Sea brings, between disparate peoples in far-flung places, that most moved me in Holling's book, and led to my four-star rating. This is an advanced picture-book, so I would only recommend it to upper elementary school students and above, who are capable of reading more extended texts. I would also only recommend it with the caveat that the depiction of the Indian boy, although not egregiously offensive in my estimation, might still feel condescending to some, and be problematic for them. With that caveat understood, I'd say this makes a lovely introduction to the geography of the Great Lakes region, some fifty years ago, and still, to a great extend, today.
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LibraryThing member nzfj
Thoroughly suspenseful with clear and graphic descriptions, the author takes us down and around the Great Lakes in a toy canoe, whittled by an Indigenous boy. The canoe receives "good medicine in his father's lodge", and is like a magical amulet set out to explore the Great Lakes and the sea. It
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allows the boy to experience what he could not through a dedication. The canoe's adventure is splendidly illustrated in color and their are b/w sketches sparingly placed along the borders of pages. They are maps and diagrams explaining each obstacle in the difficult journey. A great book for read alouds. reading level is 3rd grade+. Excellent to use with social studies units in American History or animal/forest/eco unit. Caldecott Honor Winner 1941

Published same decade 1942:
Have You Seen Tom Thumb by Mabel Leigh Hunt
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LibraryThing member jgronsand
I usually can resist an impulse buy at Powell's in Portland. But not this time! I just wanted to have at home this book that I remember so well and fondly from my childhood, now some 60+ years ago. The first two adults I showed it to--one older than me, one younger--both warmly remenisced. No doubt
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it had a background influence on my much later wanderings around the world.

It served as an idea model for a television documentary (sadly never realized) to trace a local river course from mountain to the sea, to be narrated by a local poet (of national distinction, and now deceased).
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LibraryThing member GayWard
Paddling stories all around the great lakes.
LibraryThing member auntieknickers
A favorite book of my children, especially since we lived in Minnesota near the Great Lakes. Painless learning and wonderful pictures.
LibraryThing member szanes
this book has been reprinted many times since its first appearance in 1941. It is a charming story of a tiny carved canoe that travels down from Canada, through the Great Lakes and rivers and finally to the sea. The settings are beautifully portrayed with text and illustrations. This is NOT a short
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picture book, or one for very young readers. It would make an excellent continued read aloud. Terrific kick-off for geography skills and tracing of waterways.
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LibraryThing member shillson
A Native American boy launches his toy Indian in a canoe, Paddle-to-the-Sea, in Lake Nipigon in hopes that it will make it to the Atlantic Ocean. Over the course of four years the toy falls in to the hands of several people who make sure that it continues on its travels through the Great Lakes, the
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St. Lawrence River, and Niagara Falls, eventually making it to the Atlantic Ocean. Full page pictures and illustrations of the toy's journey help to provide a geographical and historical perspective of the region. This book is probably better suited for independent reading rather than a read aloud because it is fairly long and the pencil drawings can be better appreciated independently. I would suggest this book to students in grades 3-5.

In addition to the brightly colored illustrations there are also pencil drawings that help the reader better understand parts of the story. These include diagrams of a sawmill, freighter, and canal locks. I especially liked the maps that identified where Paddle-to-the-Sea was located and on the last two pages a map of Paddle's journey is shown.

Additional books from this time period include Goodnight Moon, Make Way for Ducklings, Curious George, and Caps for Sale.
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LibraryThing member SHeineke
This is a short imaginative historical fiction about a carved little man in a carved canoe. The young native American boy who carved the figure lived deep in the wilds of Canada and longed to follow the river out to the great ocean. He knew this was not practical so he carved the little man and
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canoe to take the journey in his place. This is the story of the journey of the little canoe and the people and people groups he met along the way. Great for teaching geography of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River waterway while also encompassing historical and cultural realities of the region. Entertaining journey.
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LibraryThing member sswright46168
Very old book, but a great "adventure" on the Great Lakes. I vaguely remember seeing a movie of it when I was in elementary school (I said it was old!).
LibraryThing member Gold_Gato
I found this book the day before Bay Books, an independent bookseller, closed its doors in Concord, California. Perhaps I should say that the book found me. Why would I buy a children's book? It must have been the local book dragon whispering in my ear, for I am grateful for this great find.

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author takes us on a trip that starts in the great northern wastes of Canada, and we follow the carved toy through the wilderness and down in to the Great Lakes of the States. Along the way, we find out what the inside of a sawmill looked like and how Lake Superior resembles a wolf's head. Yes, a wolf's head.

If the kids want to have more read to them, tell them to go to sleep so you can read the book yourself in peace and quiet. It was sad to see yet another local bookstore leave us, but it brought me great happiness with my last purchase.

Book Season = Autumn
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LibraryThing member matthewbloome
This was a truly unusual story but I really enjoyed it.
LibraryThing member apoffenroth13
I had never read this story before, but I thought that it was a great book! It was fairly long, so it would be an ongoing classroom read instead of taking only one story time, but it tells the adventurous journey of a little wooden canoe carving through the great lakes and out to the ocean.
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(Historical Fiction)
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LibraryThing member mykl-s
Worth rereading every year or so. Real adventure, if a toy boat can have an adventure.
LibraryThing member jetangen4571
A beautifully illustrated story about love of the great waters and hope for the future.
I loved it and so will my grands.
I originally got the audio and it is so very well interpreted.
First published in 1946.
LibraryThing member classyhomemaker
Absolutely fantastic, beautiful, wonderful. The story, the illustrations, the education, the history. We loved it all! I've been trying to read this book with my children for 12 years now!!! We start and then life gets busy and we don't finish. I've read it very slowly over the last year with my
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three youngest and we finished today. It was a beautiful journey and they learned so much! A treasure for our library, for sure!
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Caldecott Medal (Honor Book — 1942)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

64 p.; 8.63 inches


0395292034 / 9780395292037






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