(the pictures in the post are not mine, but I am grateful to use them in my post.)
My dad was a fifth-grade teacher for 38-ish years. One of his favorite books to share with his class was Paddle-to-the-Sea, about a Native American boy (who is I'm sure called Indian in the book) who lives in land-locked Canada and carves a man in a canoe, who travels throughout the country.
Hosting Flat Stanley for Oscar's friend Nicky reminded me of Paddle. My dad carved a Paddle of wood, about two feet long, with some lead ballast. Whenever one of his students went on a trip, he'd send along Paddle and they'd float him in the water and mark where he'd been on the bottom of the canoe. Paddle was a little big, so sometimes people would just bring some sea water home to splash on him. It was Dad's version of the journal teachers would assign when their students go on vacation.
I can't remember if I brought back water from the Mediterranean on my year abroad.
The last time I saw Paddle was on my folks' back porch in Pawling, and thinking about Flat Stanley has made me buy a copy of Paddle-to-the-Sea for my kids and think about asking my dad if I can bring him home the next time we visit. Doesn't Paddle want to retire in California?
And if any of you want to know where I got my do-it-yourself crafty side, now you know. It's all John Brockway -- Mister B to his students, Brock to his friends, JA-HANN to his wife, and Dad to me.