June 26th is National Canoe Day.

National Canoe Day makes me think of fun, excitement, and the great outdoors. It also makes me think of white water, rapids, and capsizing. These books will send you on a watery adventure but not to worry … you don’t need a life jacket.

Northwind by Gary Paulsen.

When a deadly plague reaches the small fishing camp where he lives, an orphan named Leif is forced to take to the water in a cedar canoe. He flees northward, following a wild, fjord-riven shore, navigating from one danger to the next. Yet the deeper into his journey he paddles, the closer he comes to his truest self as he connects to “the heartbeat of the ocean . . . the pulse of the sea.”

This stunning New York Times Bestseller from the survival story master, set along a rugged coastline centuries ago, does for the ocean what Hatchet does for the woods, as it relates the story of a young person’s battle to stay alive against the odds, where the high seas meet a coastal wilderness. With hints of Nordic mythology, Northwind is a captivating adventure.

Follow the River by Paul Greci.

When Billy and his dad are injured, Tom summons the courage to get back on the water to save them. This time, he must travel in a rickety old homemade canoe through the Alaska wilderness to get help. But it’s not just the canoe and the terrain he has to worry about—he’s surrounded by adversaries. Are his skills enough to fight them off or will his journey be cut short and Billy and his father left stranded?



Journal of a Travelling Girl by Nadine Neema.

Eleven-year-old Julia has lived in Wekweètì in the Northwest Territories since she was five. Although the Wekweètì people have always treated her as one of their own, she sometimes feels like an outsider, disconnected from their traditions and ancestral roots.

When Julia sets off on a canoe trip with her best friends, Layla and Alice, she’s happy. However, the trip is nothing like she expected. She’s afraid of falling off the boat, of bears, and of storms.

Gradually, Grandma and Grandpa show her how to survive on the land and pull her own weight. They share their traditional stories with her. Julia learns to gather wood, cook, clean, and paddle the canoe and, in the process, becomes more connected to her community.

The Porcupine Year by Louise Erdrich.

Omakayas was a dreamer who did not yet know her limits. When she’s twelve winters old, she and her family set off on a harrowing journey in search of a new home. They travel by canoe westward from the shores of Lake Superior along the rivers of northern Minnesota. While the family has prepared well, unexpected dangers, enemies, and hardships push them to the brink of survival.

Omakayas continues to learn from the land and the spirits around her and discovers that no matter where she is, or how she is living, she has the one thing she needs to carry her through.

The Porcupine Year is the third novel in The Birchbark House Series, stories of one Ojibwe family’s journey through one hundred years in America, written by New York Times bestselling author Louise Erdrich.

National Canoe Day Activities to connect with your reading:

Make your own origami canoe.

Tips for a successful canoeing adventure.

Learn the paddle strokes.

Find out more at the American Canoe Association.

Weezie Prescott