By Jean Craighead George
I’m not entirely sure what influenced me to read My Side of the Mountain; I was searching through a list of books I had read as a child looking for something quick and easy. Picking up My Side of the Mountain I remembered liking the story and almost immediately felt compelled to read it again. The ironic thing about the whole scenario was that I’m still not sure I ever even read this book… I believe I mistook it for Banner in the Sky, by James Ramsey Ullman.
The story starts out with Sam Gribley; a young teenage boy who has run away from his small, overly inhabited apartment in New York City, who is currently living in the middle of a hollowed out tree. Sam left the city with nothing but some flint and steel and the bit of wilderness knowledge he learned from a survival book he had purchased in preparation for his adventure.
Sam’s ultimate goal was to remove himself from civilization and learn to live off the land. He locates his Grandfathers old abandoned farm grounds in the hills of the Catskill Mountains. He spends the summer working to create a suitable shelter and stock piles food for the winter. One day as he was venturing down the hill of the mountain he came across a falcon nest with 3 young birds. Working to deceive the mother falcon Sam manages to steal one of the babies to keep as a pet. Over the weeks as the bird, “Frightful” matures Sam teaches it to hunt and ‘look out’ for danger. Frightful becomes a valuable resource for food as well as a much needed friend for the lonely Sam Gribley.
Although Sam is living in the wild with no civilization he frequently finds himself making new friends. Mrs. Fiedler, who has always picked wild strawberries near Sam’s new home; Miss Turner, the librarian in the small town nearby who helps Sam answer valuable questions about survival; Bando, a hiker who stumbles across Sam during his summer vacation and decides to spend some time living with him before returning to his teaching job in the fall; Matt Spell, a young boy who aspires to be a reporter and betrays Sam’s trust by selling information about him; and Tom Sidler who originally makes fun of Sam and his life style but later becomes his friend.
My Side of the Mountain covers a period of one year as Sam learns to endure severe winter weather and loneliness in the Catskill Mountains.
I have often thought I was a person born too late, that I would have very much enjoyed living in a more simple time of surviving off the land. I closed the covers of this book wishing there was a way my family and I could check out of civilization, for time, to enjoy the beauty of God’s creations and the soft sounds of silence.
I strongly recommend this book for young boys looking to learn the art of self reliance and independence.