Kitty Smoke: Educational Resources & Activities

In 2017, we published our original children’s book, The Adventures of Kitty Smoke and Her Friends, written and illustrated by Alexander Burns Cook. Once the most powerful tugboat on the Great Lakes, Kitty Smoke was left to rot in a shipyard where she was rediscovered by a boy and his grandfather—who, with a little bit of hard work and a lot of love, restore her to become, yet again, one of the greatest tugboats on the Great Lakes. This page contains resources for educators, parents and students including discussion questions, a glossary, vocabulary activities and a coloring page. You can buy the book on our online store and all proceeds support the National Museum of the Great Lakes.


Watch & Read the Book

On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, the National Museum of the Great Lakes released a story-time video of the book. The 8-minute story is narrated by Lissa Guyton. Enjoy below!

Educational Resources & Activities


  1. The book takes place on the Great Lakes, what do you know about the Great Lakes?
  2. Why did they name the boat Kitty Smoke?
  3. What does a tugboat do?
  4. Why was Kitty Smoke left to rot?
  5. Would you have tried to fix up Kitty Smoke like Mark?
  6. Why didn’t anyone hire Kitty Smoke after Mark and Captain Inch fixed her up?
  7. Why did the Iron Queen need help?
  8. How did Kitty Smoke help the Iron Queen?
  9. What was Mark’s job when he grew up?
  10. What was different when Mark was captain of Kitty Smoke?


  • Visit for images of Great Lakes tugboats at work.
  • See tugboats in action by watching videos on YouTube like this video created for The Great Lakes Towing Company’s 120th Anniversary:
  • There are many other videos on YouTube that show Great Lakes tugboats working to bring freighters into port or to help them when they’re grounded or otherwise stuck. Explore and see what you can find!


Port: A town or city on the water where boats may dock.
Dock: A wooden pier used as a landing place for boats.
Shipyard: A place where ships are built or repaired.
Steam Engine: A device powered by steam that moves a boat.
Carpenter: A worker who builds and repairs wooden things.
Boilermaker: A worker who makes or repairs steam engines.
Glazier: A worker who makes or repairs glass and windows.
Crew: A group of people who work together on a ship or boat.
Perch and Walleye: Types of fish native to the Great Lakes.


A tugboat is a small, powerful boat that is used for pulling and pushing ships, especially into ports.