Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling is a classic children’s book about the region of the Great Lakes between Canada and the USA. If you are looking to learn social studies through literature, this book should join your list.


Paddle-to-the-Sea is a children’s classic about the Great Lakes.

Through this book, the kids and I have learned how to memorize the names and the shapes of the Great Lakes, for instance. We also learned new vocabulary (e.g. Davy Jones’ locker, the Soo) and more about the geography of the border between Canada and the USA.

I grew up doing a lot of rote memorization. While I still believe a lot of that is necessary, I also look for ways to make it fun through mnemonic devices, art, books, songs etc. This book shows through wonderful sketches that Lake Superior looks like the head of a wolf, for instance. On the other hand, Lake Michigan looks like a squash with leaves.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan looks like a squash with leaves.

I will not spoil the rest of the shapes for you. If you wanted to incorporate art into a unit study about the Great Lakes, you could, through this book.

The mnemonic device I found was HOMES: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. This was not in the book, but I thought I should share it with you because it is useful.

Unit studies do not appeal to me, but I can see how this book could be the platform toward a unit study on the Great Lakes. One can easily study history, geography, maritime vocabulary, science of the locks, biology (all the animals, fish, and vegetation), etc.

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