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The Northwest Passage

Found in: language arts & literature, social studies, science3-5, 6-8

Northwest Passage is a picture book that brings a folk song to life with paintings for a vibrant history lesson!  Matt James, illustrator, creates a unique vision to the lyrics of "Northwest Passage", written by Stan Rogers, which tells of Sir John Franklin’s disastrous expedition (1845-1847) to discover a shorter route from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Asia. When paired, they tell the history of the Northwest Passage, with notes about the explorers and the native peoples of the North.

The book also contains the music for the song, maps, information about Stan Rogers (as well as a final verse of the song that was never recorded) and notes about the illustrations. The blues and whites of James’ illustrations of Franklin in the Arctic are a chilly contrast to the greens and earth tones of those depicting Rogers’ road trip in Franklin’s footsteps. Although a picture book, Northwest Passage will work best with readers in grades 3-8.

Related Video

Students can hear the actual song "Northwest Passage", sung by Stan Rogers in    The Northwest Passage (4:50).

Related Resources

For more information, the British Library has text, images, and links in The Search for the Northwest Passage.

Related Lesson

In the unit The Search For The Northwest Passage, (  PDF, 176 KB, 49 pg.) 3rd grade students learn how early
explorers searched for a northwest passage to Asia and made other discoveries.

Climate Change and the northwest Passage

Today, the receding polar icecap promises easy passage but also raises questions of climate change and its effects on geography and plant and animal life. See: “Climate Change Might Open Up Northwest Passage To Shipping By The Middle Of The Century” and “Arctic Bears: The Melting Arctic's Impact On Its Ecosystem”.


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