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Canoe Days

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Opening this book is like sitting down in a canoe, taking up a paddle, and gliding out into the summer beauty of a hidden lake. In this picture book that is as refreshing and inviting as a perfect canoe day, a fawn peeks out from the trees as ducklings fan out behind their mother. Butterflies pause and fish laze beneath the lily pads. Ruth Wright Paulsen’s sunlit paintings and Gary Paulsen’s poetic text capture all the peace and pleasure of a day when water and sky are one.

32 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1999

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About the author

Gary Paulsen

392 books3,386 followers
Although he was never a dedicated student, Paulsen developed a passion for reading at an early age. After a librarian gave him a book to read--along with his own library card--he was hooked. He began spending hours alone in the basement of his apartment building, reading one book after another.

Running away from home at the age of 14 and traveling with a carnival, Paulsen acquired a taste for adventure. A youthful summer of rigorous chores on a farm; jobs as an engineer, construction worker, ranch hand, truck driver, and sailor; and two rounds of the 1,180-mile Alaskan dog sled race, the Iditarod; have provided ample material from which he creates his stories.

Paulsen and his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, an artist who has illustrated several of his books, divide their time between a home in New Mexico and a boat in the Pacific.

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5 stars
42 (20%)
4 stars
77 (38%)
3 stars
70 (34%)
2 stars
10 (4%)
1 star
2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for Jenny.
2,829 reviews28 followers
August 1, 2013
The language Paulsen uses is almost poetic. This describes a day out in the canoe on a peaceful, calm lake... "The water is a window into the skylake." It describes the animals that are seen. The illustrations are beautiful and calm and serene, matching the mood of the words. While my children and I have never had the experience of taking a canoe out on the lake (we have been waterskiing and I've been white water rafting...but those are different experiences), we all really enjoyed this book. It evokes a feeling of calm and my 4 year old loved the illustration of the fawn and his mother. Some day I hope we get to take some canoe trips much like this. Until then, I'm glad we could experience it through the words and images in a book.
Profile Image for Mindy Baker.
Author 1 book8 followers
June 19, 2021
What drew me to this book was the blend of text and art that perfectly portrayed the soothing calmness of a quiet lake. Bravo!
60 reviews
March 23, 2018
This lovely calm book is all about the beautiful things you see as your floating along the pond one sunny afternoon. The story softly flows through each illustration and gives the read a sense of calm serenity. And what pulls it all together is the beautiful paintings.
Profile Image for Jamie.
55 reviews13 followers
April 8, 2021
Love Paulsen’s works! This is a beautifully written read about a day on the lake. It’s almost poetic! Of course the illustrations are gorgeous, too.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,222 reviews147 followers
March 25, 2016
If any picture-book author and illustrator are a better fit than Gary Paulsen and his wife, Ruth Wright Paulsen, I'm not sure I've read their work. Drawing on his own fathomless love of nature and vast experience living and traveling in it, Gary Paulsen takes us out in a tiny skiff on the middle of a secluded lake in Canoe Days, and Ruth Wright Paulsen brings the sights, sounds, and other sensations to visceral life through her fine oil paintings. If you've never followed Gary Paulsen's lead and embarked on a quiet voyage across a lake in a canoe, you'll want to do so after reading this book.

Isolated from civilization's noise pollution, the lake lies unperturbed for its inhabitants and the wildlife that make their homes in the nearby forest. Life happens here, but the drama is too subtle for most people to notice. The canoe is pushed onto the lake by its silent human occupant and drifts toward the center across the clean, glassy surface. "One stroke of the paddle and we are gone, the canoe and me, moving silently. Across water so quiet it becomes part of the sky, the canoe slides in green magic without a ripple, disappears like a ghost floating in the airwater over the playground where fish play." The animal kingdom's hushed serenade wafts on the air, a coded harmony one must be sensitively attuned to in order to interpret its meaning.

There are veritable enchantments for a rower willing to stop and observe without commotion, allowing nature to proceed uninterrupted. Sunfish and northern pike hunt beneath the water's silky surface, darting in and out of sight among aquatic greenery. A duck leads her brood on an excursion without regard for the canoe and its passenger, and a fawn by lake's edge stares at the canoe in similarly unconcerned fashion, though his mother is worried, knowing they don't have the luxury of being careless around potential predators. Raccoons and foxes and badgers and snakes act out their part in the great circle of life, and the human in the canoe merely watches in respectful silence, desiring only to be part of the joy of life in its dazzling diversity. He has entered a different world here on the lake, one most people never realize exists, because he understands the rewards of communing with the glorious tapestry of nature as just one stitch in its sacred cloth. He searches for contentment and reflection where few others bother to look, tapping into a reservoir of wisdom and serenity that most never find. This is the great affirmation of seeking and unearthing treasure where others do not bother to dig, for not everyone sees a diamond when it's stuck in the mud.

Gary Paulsen's writing in Canoe Days is a thing of tranquil beauty, as unique and teeming with life as the lake it describes. The person in the boat is unobtrusive enough to be any age or character, perhaps even Brian Robeson from the author's Brian's Saga books. Canoe Days is a soft-spoken ballad to the unadulterated loveliness of the natural world, a caution and plea not to let its grandeur go to waste. We will not get another earth if we spoil this one, so care for it tenderly we must, as we would our own child. I'm rating Canoe Days two and a half stars, and I have much affection for its simple, heartfelt narrative. Readers of the author's teen and middle-grade works should not miss out on it. If you love a good Gary Paulsen novel, you're sure to appreciate Canoe Days.
Profile Image for Kiana Gerard.
30 reviews
September 2, 2014
Gary Paulsen's Canoe Days portrays a vivid beauty between a man and his canoe. Throughout the book, the character, an anonymous man with obscured facial features, experiences a day out on a canoe by himself on a serene lake. The character encounters many aspects of nature such as fish, ducks, and the breathtaking "skylake". Though a photographic lens, the readers get a picture of what the character is experiencing and engages the reader to be a part of the character's journey. With the help of Ruth Wright Paulsen, Gary Paulsen put the puzzle pieces together to make one marvelous and awestruck journey on a rickety canoe.

Gary Paulsen did a marvelous job using such descriptive language throughout his book. The trout "moving like an arrow” and the quiet “swish of a butterfly wing” picture a wonderful description of movement. Metaphors and similes in Canoe Days can be easily misunderstood, but Gary and Ruth Paulsen's literary and artistic teamwork helps children visualize these descriptions. The peaceful surroundings give readers a sense of the novel's calm and serene mood. Gary and Ruth Paulsen work together not only to create a written story, but a story mainly with bright visuals and little words to get their point across. When we are introduced to the character in the canoe, we do not see the character's facial features or eyes. On one page, the reader and the character observes ducks on the lake. The picture portrays the character and the canoe are blurred in the background. Gary and Ruth Paulsen both create this image to highlight the nature aspects in the story. The main focus of the story is not on the character or the canoe, but the plants and wildlife that the character experiences through a panoramic view. Canoe Days is a wonderful book for children of all ages to experience the love of nature, wildlife, and beautiful scenery.
30 reviews1 follower
September 2, 2014
The story recounts a man and his peaceful day on a canoe using illustrative descriptions of the world that surrounds him. The lake is so serene that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be heard and the footsteps of deer wading into water’s edge. During his day on the water, he encountered many more animals including: a duck, a dragonfly and a multitude of fish. He admires the reflections of the forest on the lake coining it as a ‘skylake’. The man concludes his canoe day pleased, as he pulls the canoe out of the lake.
The man in the canoe remains faceless throughout the story. However, the animal’s faces are very clearly displayed, almost like a picture taken by a camera. Every picture of an animal is very close up, as if you were facing the animal only a few feet away. In addition to the camera like aspects of the book, there are sidebars on each page pulling you towards the center of each picture. The illustrator uses this technique to signify that the story is not about the man, but of the animals’ world that he has entered. Their faces are shown because they are the main characters. The man is only an observer in this story.
The story’s illustrations use muted colors and calming images. Each picture coincides with the text, bringing life to the words on the page. Yet, even with the clear visual depictions of the text, the mature vocabulary could prove to be difficult for some children. The story’s plot is relatively flat as there is no rise in action. The author simply sought to pair a tranquil setting with a personal hobby.
29 reviews
September 5, 2014
Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen
Illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen

This book is about what a man sees as he goes on the lake with his canoe. He sees many great things and realizes how quiet but how busy the nature around the lake can be and what really happens. He likes to go on the lake for some quiet time and to get away from life.

The illustrations are very colorful and through the illustrations you feel like you are in the book itself. The author uses wonderfully expressive language so that the reader can escape into the story. The language is so expressive that it feels like everything around you in quiet. I felt a great sense of quiet and wanted to be on that lake with the author. You can also feel what animals do and what their lives are like in their homes. This would be a great story to read to children who might not get out into nature. This would give a great feeling on what nature is like and why you should go out into nature. The only problem is that the story and words are a little advanced so it would be easier for older children like 8-10 to understand. It might be too advanced for little kids from 5-7. I think this would be a great book to read to children with their eyes closed and then have then open them and have them see the illustrations. The author does a great job of expressing the beauty of nature and the illustrations just add more to it.
30 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2014
In the book Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen, a man takes a ride in a canoe on a peaceful lake. The story goes through the different types of animals living on the lake but the story is told through the man's point of view. The story vividly describes all of the animals and their actions. Paulson expertly uses figurative language to make his writing stronger. Though the story is told from the man's point of view, he is not the main character in this story. You never fully see his face and when the deerfly lands on his cap you can infer that he is completely immersed in the nature. There is also the part in the book where he describes the ducks and says "she does not see the man only the canoe", showing that the man is not the focus in the story.
The descriptions of these animals interacts perfectly with the illustrations. One aspect I noticed right away was that the illustrations go from page to page. There is no white space on the pages. There are colorful borders on every page and the words of the story are always at the bottom of the page. This is fitting because the story is all about describing the lake and what animals live there. It fully immerses the reader into the world of the animals on the lake.
September 4, 2014

Canoe Days is a beautifully written and illustrated book. In this story the main character takes you on a scenic and calming ride in his canoe,along the way he encounters various impressive animals and fascinating plants, such as water snakes and lily pads.The first person perspective in the vivid and detailed illustrations make you feel as if you are right there with him, experiencing the raw beauty of nature and a perfect canoe ride in the clear smooth water. One of the things I noticed is that the first few pages with only drawings of lovely wildlife set the peaceful mood. The author creates great imagery with his poetic and descriptive writing. After reading this book I felt very peaceful and I wanted to go outside and explore nature, witness beautiful landscapes and interact with the wildlife just as he had in the book, I imagine this has the same effect on children which I believe may have been one of their objectives. However, this book may be a little harder for younger children to grasp mainly because of his use of more advanced figurative language and realistic drawings which may be a bit boring for them. But I think it introduces a lot of new vocabulary for older kids who are able to better understand it, overall I think this is a great picture book.
30 reviews
September 4, 2014
This book would be a great addition to the bedtime stories list. It is very relaxing and gives off a calm vibe when it is read. It starts off with a vision of a calm lake. The opening line, "Sometimes when it is still, so still you can hear the swish of a butterfly's wing" really sets the tone for the entire book. You imagine little sounds with smooth movements. Throughout the story, you get visuals of what it would be like if you were on that exact lake in the canoe. The author mentions the creatures you would see and how they react to him. There are not any sudden movements or loud sounds which really sets tone for the entire story.

There was something that really caught my eye in this book. You never see the man's face. The entire story is told through his perspective and his eyes, but you never see them. His body is shown in a couple illustrations but his face is almost blurred out. This really helps the reader to connect to the nature in the story. They did not want the focus to be on the man and the canoe, but more what the man experiences on the trips out. I find this technique very interesting and overall effective in the story.
21 reviews
December 2, 2014
In Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen, we are introduced to a man whose face in turned away from the cameras view. Although it’s an illustration, they are very life like portrayals of an actual place. The significance of this is to emphasize the world around them and the beauty they are before. We, as readers, are introduces to many different animals that the main character comes across on his canoe ride, but the journey is not in the things he sees but rather the way he explains them. He speaks vividly to enhance the beauty on the illustrated page.

One thing that I found very interesting was that as we turned pages, the formatting never changed. The on variance is that text would alternate from black to white and then back again almost as if they were barely trying to be seen on the page, yet still legible to the readers eye. This made the illustrations more appealing and aw-striking.
28 reviews
September 4, 2014
Canoe Days involves a man, a mysterious one at that, who begins his day by heading to the lake with his canoe. It's a very still day, not much going on and not much to see until the book takes a turn. The mysterious man runs into a spark of life that brightens up the story and turns his day from bland to beautiful.

When I was reading Canoe Days, I couldn't help but to feel somewhat depressed. I didn't know the man in the story, his name or anything about him, but from how the author described the first half of the book and the first half of the mysterious man's day, I couldn't help but to feel as if this man lived a miserable and boring life. The illustrations were very neutral, basically unappealing to my eyes because they weren't grabbing my attention, until the animals started to appear. This is when the book started to make sense to me and gain a purpose. I then felt a light of happiness and hope for this mystery man that was riding in his canoe alone.
Profile Image for Selina.
30 reviews27 followers
September 4, 2014
In the book Canoe Days there is a very calm book about the main character being one with nature. The man who is cannoning does not show his face. The author is very detailed about nature, the way he describes nature and the animals is much more vivid and imaginable than the human character himself.
I think the way the book was written in a very calm tone could be maybe read for either naptime or before bedtime. They way the book is written can really calm the child. The animals in Canoe Days are characterized. I think kids often enjoy when animals are characters because it can make the book seem more interesting. The animals do not fear the man nor are the animals feared by him they don’t fret when he is near and I think this may imply he is invisible to the animals. The illustrations are focus a lot on the nature and focused in on the animals more than they are every focused in on the man.
30 reviews
August 29, 2014
In the story of a canoe-loving man he senses a perfect moment to take a quiet ride down the calm water of the river. Quietly and smoothly he glides through the water taking in the many beauties the world has to offer. He takes a moment to gaze at the reflection upon the skylake, the smooth movements of the fish, and even the undisturbed young playing by the rivers bed.
The detailed illustrations throughout the book allow one to simply dive deep into the waters of that river and immerse themselves in the nature surrounding them. The text is so descriptive it allows the mind to formulate an image that matches the illustrations almost brush stroke to brush stroke. The illustrations mask the entire page allowing the reader to be completely taken over by the story and urging the other senses to step in and make you feel as if you too were gliding down the river in a canoe.
Profile Image for Miss Pippi the Librarian.
2,491 reviews55 followers
September 19, 2012
"Opening this book is like sitting down in a canoe, taking up a paddle, and gliding out into the summer beauty of a hidden lake."

The cover flap explains the story very well. If the reader is familiar with the north woods, canoeing, fishing, or enjoying nature, they can sit back and take a deep breath of vacation. The descriptions of animal activity are distinct and true. The image and play of the fish underwater is fun and interesting. The illustrations only add to the words. The paintings feel like the north woods with their murky underwater scenes and impressionistic like backgrounds of the water's edge and animals. I would highly recommend this book for nature lovers or a book for the cabin.

Reviewed from a library copy.
Profile Image for Ayanna Siders.
6 reviews1 follower
September 5, 2014
Canoe Days is a fully immersive text that tells the experience of exploring a lake on a fine day, referred to as a canoe day. It begins with the narrator explaining the conditions that make a great canoe day. Then, during his time on lake, he describes the scenery and animals around him.

The interplay between the text and the illustrations is rather mesmerizing. The page bleed of the full color images draws the audience into the scene, rather than keeping them as a spectator. Also, the canoer is always drawn with his face hidden, which allows the reader to place himself in his place. Also, the font chosen is very minimal, with slight organic stylings that help tie the text to the illustrations.
September 4, 2014
In the book Canoe Days You see a man take a calm Canoe ride through nature. As he goes down the river you see him experience different animals and elements of nature. The book I feel does a really good job of focusing on it's main point, which is nature. Instead of focusing on the man this story decides to focus on everything that is going on around him in his trip. It does this by never showing the man's face which prevents you from connecting with the man, and using strong metaphors and language to focus on the nature around him. One thing in particular that I enjoyed is how whatever the page is discussing, for example the first page talks about a butterfly's wings, that that particular image is focused while the background images are somewhat blurry and out of focus.
30 reviews
September 4, 2014
This book truly reminded me of being back in Western Montana along the rivers and lakes. A man decides to go out in his canoe on a peaceful day to take in the beauty of his surroundings. As he glides across the water he becomes emerged in nature, noticing animals in their natural habitats and the skyline reflected in the water.

I really enjoyed the peaceful persona of the illustrations with the details of the words. Some aspects are almost camouflaged, as the man becomes part of the surroundings. The man’s face is never illustrated and I think this is because the author and illustrator really wanted the audience to focus on the surroundings rather than the man. This way the reader is able to concentrate on the animals’ reactions to the man being in their habitat.
30 reviews
September 5, 2014
This story is about a man who takes his canoe out for a day on the lake. He goes past all these animals such as ducks, butterflies and deer. Their is innocence in the animals as the baby deer just stare at the man but the mother deer quickly shoo them away. The author does a good job of describing all the animals and the scenery around it. One of my favorite things about this book was the author's use of figurative language. One line he uses when the man is rowing across the lake is "the water is a window into the sky lake." If you couldn't see the illustrations you could still imagine that with your eyes closed. The illustrations in this book are so well done that you almost can't take your eyes off them. The book was very calming and I think it would be a good bedtime story.
28 reviews
September 2, 2014
in the story, the quiet man took us to a peaceful place by seeing all the nature things through the lake. Reader can see the reflection of the skyline through the water window. The peaceful movement of the fish swimming under around all the flowers. The text was very descriptive. reader don't have to look at all pictures in the book, but we can still see what happen in the story because of the level of vocabulary that author use. the illustration took the entire job about describe.the illustrations and the text are very blended to the other. it help reader can understand more the story. reading this book, it make you feel you are actually witness everything in the river with the man.
30 reviews
September 2, 2014
The book Canoe Days takes the reader on a ride through nature. On a sunny day, a young man gets in his canoe and goes for ride across a lake full of animals such as a butterfly, ducks and fishes. The realistic illustrations covers all the pages and the vivid colors pulls you right in, as if you were inside the canoe with the young man. The figurative language of the book is very descriptive with lots of good adjectives , similes and metaphors and while part of it can be complex with phrases such as “the water is a window into the skylake”, they create pictures in your head. This is a slow paced book, which is good for kids to take the concept in. A perfect read on a warm summer day.
30 reviews1 follower
September 4, 2014
In the book, it talked about a man who went on his canoe. He talked about what he saw throughout the lake. He was the visitor of nature. The tone the book set was very calming and peaceful. The author made it seem like you went along on the canoe ride with the character in the book.

In this book, the illustrations were very realistic. The illustrations went along with the words, since the author was very detailed so were the illustrations. One thing that I noticed was how the face of the person was never shown. It just showed nature as if you were the one seeing it from your point of view.
58 reviews1 follower
April 16, 2013
Canoe Days is the story of taking a trip around the edge of a lake in a canoe. There are many things that can be encountered on a journey around a lake. There are racoons, dear, butterflies, fish, and many more critters that come alive through the beautiful illustrations. This book is for children ages four to eight. It is realistic fiction. I really connected with this book because canoeing is my favorite hobby in the summer. I particularly love paddling along the edges of lakes there is a lot to discover. The pictures really capture the calmness and joys of being out on a lake.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews

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