Friday, May 9, 2008


I attended a very small elementary school in Milan, Michigan in the 1970s. George Allan Elementary was grades 1-5 with only one class of each. Our class composition changed very little during those years, so we all grew to be quite close.

As the weather would grow warmer during the late winter/early spring months, our entire school (fewer than 100 students) would spend a morning watching a classic short filmstrip — Paddle-to-the-Sea, which was based on the Caldecott-award story by Holling C. Holling. We did this every year, from first grade through fifth. Watching Paddle-to-the-Sea was sort of a Michigan tradition that I'm sure a lot of you who spent their young years in the Great Lake State in the 1970s will remember.

And, yes, it was a filmstrip. Garbled audio. Big projector screen. That's dating myself.

I can still remember the little Indian boy painting the canoe he had carved by firelight, and setting it on top of a cliff, ready to travel the journey through the Great Lakes on the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Or the murky shots of the canoe traveling the waterway between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

I hadn't seen Paddle-to-the-Sea in at least 25 years until yesterday. The film was just released on DVD a few weeks ago, and when I heard about it, I ordered it immediately. Last night, I watched it with my seven-year-old daughter (she loved it, too). It was just as if it were yesterday that I saw it; not a quarter of a century ago.

It's a nice little film. And you can find it here at Amazon.

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