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My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

June 26, 2010

This is the much acclaimed story of Sam Gribley, one of nine children, who decides to leave the city and live off the land. My Side of the Mountain was first published in 1959 and is a Newbery Honor Book, ALA Notable Book and Hans Christian Andersen Award Honor Book.

In this book for children ages 10-14, Sam is intrigued by the stories of his great grandfather who homesteaded in the Catskill Mountains, where a tract of land is still entitled to the Gribley family. Sam’s father says it is no place for a Gribley, but Sam longs to find the farm and live a self sufficient life. He applies himself to learning all he can about hunting, trapping, edible plants and survival in the wild. His family is amused by his proclamations that he’ll leave the crowded city and strike off on his own, but one day he actually carries out his plan.

It is the kind of adventure every boy dreams about.  The story is by no means a realistic portrayal of survival, but it has just enough hardship to make it interesting. Sam’s adventure is mostly filled with times of wonderful self reliance, amazing success at trapping, building and foraging, punctuated by a keen awareness of wild animals and nature.

Sam’s success in the wild is greatly enhanced by his capture and training of Frightful, a peregrine falcon. Frightful supplies Sam with food and turns out to be a tutor of survival in other respects. The book is very entertaining, although not very realistic. It contains plans, drawings and maps from Sam’s journal which are sure to fire up the imagination of any youngster. (For a completely different, and perhaps balancing, account of a real life wilderness survival story, see my review of Lost on a Mountain in Maine.)

Sam has a few visitors over the course of his year in the woods, which provokes the publishing of a few newspaper articles about a rumored mystery boy living in the Catskills. The articles prod Sam’s father into looking for him. He confesses he is surprised about, but proud of, Sam’s success.

In a very unlikely ending, Sam’s whole family joins him and decides to live on the old Gribley Farm. He isn’t too happy about the arrangement, but also realizes his need for human companionship and family support.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2010 3:03 PM

    Here’s a great resource for Wilderness Survival Skills.

  2. riley permalink
    March 30, 2011 5:17 PM

    omg i love this book. i makes me want to move out to the catskills. AND im only 13


  1. Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler/Joseph B Egan « Loyal Books Blog

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