Paddle to the Sea
By Holling C. Holling
Grade Levels: 2-6
An important purpose of literature is shining light on injustices in society. But for children, and often for weary adults, it is just as important to focus on the goodness in the world and wonder at the heights of kindness that human beings are capable of, in addition to facing the depths of our selfishness.
Paddle to the Sea is a book that gives us that sense of wonder. It’s the story of a small American Indian boy who carves a statue of a man in a canoe with the words “Please put me back in the water. I am Paddle-to-the-Sea,” and sets it on his way. Each chapter focuses on one of the lives that Paddle-to-the-Sea touches on his journey from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic and beyond. A grown man, the original maker hears the story of Paddle-to-the-Sea and the book ends with quiet pride in what he has helped to create.
If this story seems far-fetched to you, it shouldn’t. You may have heard the story of hitchBOT, which followed a similar journey to hitchhike across Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany in a modern retelling of this 1941 classic. Unfortunately, hitchBOT was not so lucky in its journey across the US.