The Village School book review: A toy canoe, a carving and a journey


Village School Music Teacher
Published: 11/20/2020 3:46:08 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 3:45:53 PM

“Paddle-to-the-Sea,” by Holling Clancy Holling

In southern Canada, a young Native American boy carves a toy canoe out of wood and names it Paddle-to-the-Sea. Sitting in the middle of the boat is a wooden figure of a Native American man. After completing his carving, the boy places Paddle-to-the-Sea in a small river near his home, which connects with the Great Lakes, in hopes that Paddle will make its way to the ocean and sail around the world. 

Along his journey, Paddle encounters many obstacles such as beaver dams, rushing river currents, sawmills, forest fires, dog sleds, motor boats, waterfalls, native tribes, and more. Constantly, this valiant little canoe escapes danger and continues onward towards the open ocean. A couple of times, Paddle gets taken out of the water for people to inspect or because he has been washed ashore. Thankfully, Paddle’s carver had inscribed “Please put me back in the water. I am Paddle-to-the-Sea” on the underside of the boat. This way, once Paddle is found, he can be returned to fulfill his destiny.

The end of the book has a map of the northeastern United States and southern Canada, which outlines Paddle’s journey through the Great Lakes and to the Atlantic Ocean. This gives readers a sense of exactly how far Paddle must travel to reach the ocean.

This book is a story of perseverance and overcoming adversity. Each page is a new obstacle that Paddle must conquer. This tale is beautifully written with imaginative text, intricate details, and stunning illustrations. Readers will root for this inanimate carving throughout his entire journey. Through the ups and downs of his travels, Paddle-to-the-Sea is a symbol for persistence and tenacity in the face of hardship.

This was a favorite book of mine from childhood. The illustrations captured me, and I loved the idea of an inanimate object making a great voyage and overcoming obstacles. This story is best suited for fourth grade and up, but younger children will enjoy it as a read-aloud book. Consider reading “Paddle-to-the-Sea” to take part in this little toy canoe’s wonderful and eventful adventure.

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