Children’s Book of the Week: Paddle to the Sea

by | Apr 13, 2009 | Children's Book of the Week | 6 comments

Paddle to the Sea by Holling Clancy Holling

Do you remember this book? Paddle to the Sea is seared onto my memory from childhood, mostly from watching the movie version of it in the Tenafly Public Library, probably in 1977 (Kate, were you with me?). So I was greatly pleased when the boys (all of them, Dave too) were as charmed by it as I was, way back when.

It’s the story of a wooden Indian in a canoe, that a Canadian Indian boy carves by hand and puts into the water, with the words “I am Paddle to the Sea, please put me back in the water” written on the bottom. The story follows Paddle’s adventures through the Great Lakes to the Saint Lawrence River and finally to the sea. Along the way, over several years, he sees a shipwreck and a great fire, goes over Niagara Falls, and his journey is almost completely stopped by various mishaps.

The best part is the book’s format. Each chapter is one page. On the page where the text is, there are small sketches related to that particular chapter — a map, a diagram of a sawmill, a history of Lake Superior. On the facing page is a large, lush, full-color painting of Paddle on his adventure. What a perfect format to keep young kids involved in the story. And at the end there’s a detailed map showing Paddle’s looping route on his way to the sea.

This is a great bedtime chapter book: Eli got all of it, and couldn’t wait to read the next night’s chapter, and Henry was putty in Paddle’s hands because of the maps. There’s a reason this is such a classic. There’s a wonderful thread of human goodness and of being true to your word and honoring someone’s dream, plus the whole thing is a nice geography lesson.


  1. Clog

    I was talking about this book with Benjamin, Els’ grandson, this morning on our walk, as he was collecting birch bark to make a canoe to put in the brook.
    This 60th anniversary books looks lovely. I will have to check it out. One of my favorites too.
    Why do I remember seeing this movie with you in Williamstown and it was a double feature and the other movie was that one about the house in NYC that stays and huge skyscrapers are built around it. Name???

  2. Julie

    The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. Though I don’t remember that. Although if I saw Paddle to the Sea multiple times that would explain why I remember the movie so vividly.

  3. Sarah

    I’ve never heard of this but it’s definately a Jaya one! Darn, already went to the library today.

  4. Kate

    I’m sure we did see it at the Tenafly Library although I remember seeing it in elementary school too, at least twice. I loved that story. I just went over to the library this morning looking for it but will have to go to another one to get it. I didn’t know they had a film of The Little House. We have Mike Mulligan and a whole Robert McCloskey collection on DVD. What classics.

  5. bruce g

    I remember this film well and think about it from time to time. I recall watching it on a projector with film.

  6. Julie

    Oh, yes, definitely the projector. That projector whirring added a lot to the experience. Now they probably don’t even need to turn the lights off, since it’s all just watching TV. The video is on YouTube but I haven’t watched it yet.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.