Although this book is quite old, I had never read it before. What a wonderful book I've missed out on! This is a timeless book that encompasses a great story, history, geography, and the good will of people. There were a few lines that made me a bit uncomfortable that referred to Indians, but they really did seem to blend well with the story, and by the end of the book I had a deep appreciation for them. It's quite complicated, short chapter book with some very advanced vocabulary that would be hard for younger children.
I think young kids would like it because of the great story. Older kids would like it because of the huge amount of geography involved, and they could really get into looking at all the maps and follow the path the canoe takes on the way to the ocean. I also think kids in the upper Midwest would learn a lot about their area and maybe a little bit about the Indians who have been in this area for a lot longer than any of us. I really liked the way the author incorporated the different ports the canoe came upon and mentioned things about the town. For example, Duluth was described as "a city on a hill" with iron ore as its export. There were also really nice parts about the wildlife, the storms, and the general scenery that the canoe encounters.
Besides the wonderful story, the drawings and illustrations are exceptional. There are illustrations of the route that the canoe took along with an arrow pointing where paddle-to-the-sea is now. There are illustrations showing a sawmill, a canal lock, a breeches buoy, and a lake freighter. I believe this book would be great to study as a class by bringing out the history of the great lakes region, the history of Native Americans in the region, geography of the great lakes region, and the biology of the region.