Title: The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal
Author: Cheryl Harness
Major Themes: Erie Canal
Synopsis: Beautiful paintings and interesting text describe the building of America’s first big canal.
Eight or nine years ago, I found a copy of Cheryl Harness’s The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal on clearance from a place with which I was placing an order. Some of my children were studying American history that year, so I worked out a way to incorporate this beautiful picture book into our study. I was delighted this year, when I bought a history course to use with my 6-year-old, to find this book as one of the resources scheduled in! We enjoyed reading it and studying the pictures.
In the early 1800s, there was a major transportation problem in the new United States. It took a month or more to transport anything from Lake Erie to the Hudson River, along rivers, and over the mountains. How could trade be sped up? The easiest way to travel at that time was by water—but how do you go over mountains in a boat? De Witt Clinton had an idea: build a canal! He got the project going.
Eight years after beginning to dig the canal, it was finished, and a flotilla of boats set off from Lake Erie. Five days later, amid much celebration all the way, they reached the Hudson River, and after another four days, they arrived in New York City. This trip is described in a very interesting way, and every page is illustrated with beautiful, full-color, realistic paintings. Every few pages a map shows the route described in that section of the story.
The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal is one of those books that you can spend a lot of time studying. The pictures are incredibly detailed. One page explains how the locks work, and another describes the aqueducts that took the canal over rivers. This is a wonderful book to read with children—the kind of book that makes a fun story as well as teaches about a historical event.
WARNING: On page 28, someone says, “by golly.”
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12