I grew up in Oregon. My grandmother, who lived in Alaska and Oregon, gave me a copy of this book when I was about 8, many decades ago. I have never forgotten it and have been delighted to find another copy of late.
An Indian boy, landlocked in central Canada, carves of wood a small Indian man in a canoe, and places him on a snowy hillside, with a message on the bottom of his canoe identifying him as "Paddle-To-The-Sea" and pleading with anyone who finds him to put him back in the water so he can complete his long journey -- a journey the boy cannot make himself.
At the spring thaw, the wooden canoe slides down the mountain and into streams, ponds, and eventually the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence River. Paddle encounters boats, animals, ships' locks, a forest fire, a sawmill, and many other threats and adventures. Many pairs of hands discover and help him along his mighty journey. One even repaints him after a year or more of bad weathering.
Each chapter-page of the book has a facing full-page painting in rich colors, as well as small marginal illustrations. The book is a great adventure story, but it's also an effective geography lesson for folks who don't live in or know that part of the country. Like someone else wrote, I will never forget that Lake Superior is shaped like a wolf's head and Lake Huron like a fur trapper with a pack on his back. (Can't remember which lake is the carrot and which the piece of coal, though!)
This is a beautiful, classic book for older children, which should remain in print for generations to come. I can't wait until my niece is old enough to be ready for a copy.