Monday movies: Paddle to the Sea

All of this talk about elementary school makes me remember one of my favorite movies from my school days: Paddle to the Sea (1966). We saw this annually in Great Lakes country where I grew up. And of course, it stars a doll–Kyle Apatagon’s clever creation, “Paddle to the Sea.”

Do you know this movie, or does it stir a distant memory? I find it mesmerizing still–it’s a glimpse of an experience that’s something new for most urban or suburban children. If you have young children in your life please share this movie with them.

26 thoughts on “Monday movies: Paddle to the Sea

  1. I don’t know the film, Historiann, but Holling C. Holling’s book, _Paddle-to-the-Sea_ was (along with _You Will Go to the Moon_) one of the children’s books that has stuck with me the longest. I have very vivid memories of some of the pages in the book.

    I presume the book may have predated the film, but I am not certain.


  2. Tom: It looks like the book was published in 1941, well before the movie came out. I thought you of all my readers might remember the movie, seeing as you grew up on the lake Erie shore yourself–you and Rose should definitely check it out.

    It’s a beautiful book too, but the movie is captivating.


  3. Like Tom, I don’t remember the movie, but I sure remember the book! We had a cottage in Nova Scotia, but my dad could never go because we lived on a dairy farm. So for the three hour drive, my mom would pack the back seat full of half of the public library’s children books and Paddle to the Sea was one of them. How appropriate, now that I think about it! We used to love all the books and think it was really special but now I know that mom was just trying to keep us pacified for the longest amount of time possible.


  4. Squadrato–The Red Balloon is a good one, but like The Velveteen Rabbit (and now Toy Story 3), it’s all about death in the end. Paddle to the Sea is about survival and triumph! Paddle’s life will never end, so long as he’s out in the seas and oceans somewhere around the world.

    There are just too many children’s books/movies about death, IMHO.

    Meaghan–couldn’t your mother get credit for introducing you to quality children’s literature as an especially brilliant strategy for keeping the lot of you well entertained? (Why must it be either/or? Can’t we have our James and the Giant Peach and eat it, too?)


  5. Nifty. I’m going to wait and watch the movie with my children. The books I remember the most vividly are by Ezra Jack Keats and Leo Leonni. When I read those to my own children, I was delighted to discover that I still remembered almost every word. I grew up in an overwhelmingly white suburb but the urban landscape and characters in Keats’ books really spoke to me. What great gifts from my parents, those books.


  6. What a cool “short,” as they used to say, quite possibly the best one we’ve had here. What this reminds me of–not the picture itself but the posting of it–is driving up to Historianntown.usa about this time of year as a college sophomore with two friends hoping to get summer jobs on a Great Lakes ore boat. We even stopped at a Woolworths and bought socks for the imagined (but totally unscheduled) interview. Didn’t help. At the union hiring hall the (one man) search committee took one look at us and fell over laughing, thanked us for coming, and told us to get back to school. Which we did. It wasn’t a bad adventure as adventures go, though.

    I remember the Red Balloon too. Goes well with: “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday.”


  7. I, too, grew up on the Hollings books (although Tree in the Trail not the trip to the moon) besides PttS. Never seen the movie. Bruno Munari books stick with me from a slightly younger period. I found two recently at my brother’s house and stole them back to my house. Loved, loved, loved these books.


  8. Oh, exactly! She could have given us gravol instead of books, and I totally appreciate it: it was magical sitting in the back seat of the van on the way to the beach with half a library.


  9. There is WAY too much death in children’s films.
    For many years when our children were younger, we were part of a baby-sitting coop. We often showed videos as part of the evenings when we had all the kids at our house (as the other parents did on their watch). One of the fathers in the group died very suddenly, which was of course horrible in many ways. But it became very difficult to find age-appropriate films that did not include a death, usually of a parent. It really seemed as if every children’s movie featured the death of a parent, sometimes not even indicated in the synopsis, so we would have no forewarning.
    I wish we had known of this film back then!


  10. I’ve never seen that movie, but now I want to, because that was one of my very favorite books when I was a kid. I pretty much wore out my copy, and when my niece and nephew were almost to “learning to read” age, I got them a copy. That and the Island of the Blue Dolphins. What a great memory to bring up! Thanks!


  11. No Great Lakes childhood but I did once live on the shores of the mighty inland sea, Lake Michigan. Where I grew up, we learned about Ishi, the last of the Yana people.


  12. Historiann,
    I once made the mistake of mentioning in passing The Velveteen Rabbit to an otherwise well adjusted and reasonalbe parent whose child had scarlet fever. We both were choking back tears in a matter of seconds. There are a few moments like that in Paddle, but I won’t spoil it for the readership.


  13. oh! I loved this book as a child and do remember the movie as well. I’m a bit your junior, Historiann, but I guess it makes sense that Minnesota classrooms would have kept the filmstrips around…

    I think I taped a reading of _Paddle to the Sea_ on my shoe-box sized cassette recorder as part of a birthday gift to my mother one year. Such a thoughtful gift, given that we owned the book.


  14. I don’t know either the book or the film. But I love the Red balloon, and I am still moved by the ending. I got the video when my god-daughter was little, because without words it’s easy to show to a little little one.

    Other than that, The Secret Garden (which starts with death, but is also all about life and survival.) It’s in the public domain, so I’ve got it on my kindle, and when I was delayed in an airport, it was marvelous to sit and read it.

    Also, when we did summer vacations, it seems to me all the places we stayed had old libraries filled with “The Dutch Twins” “Colonial Twins” series or “A Little Maid of Old Virginia/New York/Boston…” I ate them up — 1920/30s girl’s history. Didn’t know it at the time, but I guess women’s history was kind of overdetermined for me.


  15. Susan–I don’t know the specific series you write of but I think I know the genre. All I had were the Bobsey Twins and Nancy Drew, but they were old versions of the series–from the 1930s and 40s as I recall for the most part, so it they were pretty historical to me. I’ll have to look up some of those Colonial Twins or Dutch Twins books.

    Where else but in Nancy Drew books from the 1930s would a 1970s girl read about “roadsters?” (I liked the things that put off a lot of my contemporaries.)


  16. I grew up in the Great Lakes, not far from Lake Michigan, and Paddle to the Sea was one of my family’s favorite books when my brother and I were young. I bought a copy not long ago in anticipation of sharing it with my own children when I start my family. 🙂


  17. Pingback: Yosemite in spring: Liberty Caps, waterfalls, and our own “Paddle to the Sea” : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  18. Pingback: Yosemite in spring: Liberty Caps, waterfalls, and our own “Paddle to the Sea” | Historiann

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