Another set of maps and drawings focuses on teaching Great Lakes geography. As Paddle travels through each new lake, a new series of illustrations appears, generating a comparison between the shape of the water body and an image relating to the local natural and/or cultural environment. Lake Michigan is a squash with leaves, and Lake Erie (ever the outcast!) is likened to a lump of coal. This imagery not only encourages readers to memorize names and concepts surrounding Great Lakes geographical and cultural identity, but also promotes an ecospatial viewpoint that supplements the primary plot of travel in and through the watershed.
Paddle-to-the-Sea is not a perfect book, by any means. The book’s Native American imagery includes elements of caricature, at times invoking the “silent Indian” and “noble savage” stereotypes. And from a more narrowly environmental standpoint, the book seems to celebrate industry without thinking about the ecological consequences. At one point, Paddle is covered with the red dust from iron shipping, which today we would recognize as severe water pollution. These are not minor concerns; on both subjects—environmentalism and representing Native peoples—it might be fair to say that Holling was insufficiently ahead of his time.
Dr. Lowell Wyse holds a Ph.D. in Modern Literature and Culture from Loyola University Chicago. His research interests include American literature, travel writing, environmental studies, mapping, and spatiality/place studies. Originally from the Maumee Watershed in Hillsdale County, Michigan, he is currently working as an Assistant Professor of English for Broward College (Florida) at the Center for Global Education in Lima, Peru. His presentation for the 2017 biennial conference for the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) in Detroit was entitled “Ecospatial Orientation in the Great Lakes Watershed: