When 12 year old Sam Gribly gets fed up with big city life and his family’s crowded New York City apartment, he hatches a plan to run away to his great grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. There he begins to live out every twelve year old’s dream; learning to survive in the wilderness. Sam initially realizes that his wilderness survival skills – learned from books at the New York City Public Library – aren’t nearly good enough but with the help of a new friend and a few lucky breaks, he soon begins to make a life for himself in the woods. He learns to build traps to catch small game, to fish, to forage for food and soon begins the big project of building a home for himself in the burned out interior of a giant hemlock tree. Along the way Sam learns to avoid rangers, makes friends with the local wildlife and tames and trains a peregrine falcon who becomes both a companion and a skilled hunter. The story wanders through the fall and preparations for winter and into the loneliness of solitude and the delight of unexpected friendships.
My Side of the Mountain was one of my favorite books as a child. The author’s description of the mountain setting painted a picture of the glories of nature that thrilled my heart and made the story all the more real. While Sam’s character is far more mature than any twelve year old, his tenacity and can do spirit inspired me. Every page had a new adventure or a challenge to overcome and Sam was up for all of them. Characters pop up throughout the story at just the right time. Bill, Baron Weasel, Bando, Frightful the Falcon and many more wander in and out of Sam’s days on the mountain bringing him much joy and occasional grief. I loved My Side of the Mountain when I was a boy and I loved it still more when I read it again a few years back. It’s a great book for kids, filled with lessons of perseverance, courage and ingenuity. And it would be a great book to introduce to young boys who are reluctant readers.
- Ages: 10 – 99
- Awards: Newbery Honor; ALA Notable Book
- Pages: 177
- Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
By Aaron G Myers