Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Side of the Mountain (Jean Craighead George)

My Side of the Mountain
(The My Side of the Mountain trilogy, Book 1)
Jean Craighead George
Fiction, YA Adventure
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Like many boys (and some girls), Sam Gribley dreamed of running away from home to live in the woods, like something out of an old story. Unlike most, he actually set his mind to do it. The Gribley family owns a plot of land in the Catskill Mountains, though the place was abandoned generations ago: it's here that Sam means to live his dream. He sets out with a head full of book-learned survival knowledge and a pocketful of supplies... but the wilderness isn't a library book, and the old Gribley property is nothing like Third Avenue. Can a boy raised in New York City survive in the forest, or will he turn back at the first sign of hardship, as everyone seems to expect?

REVIEW: First published in 1959, My Side of the Mountain is a classic tale of wilderness survival and the beauty of nature. Sam's adventures are, to a certain degree, wish fulfillment, emphasizing the bounty of the forest and the many delightful surprises of life beyond civilization, with minimal true danger or hardship. He makes a home inside an ancient tree, "befriends" a few animal neighbors such as the Baron Weasel and a scrawny raccoon, and even trains a wild falcon chick, Frightful, a loyal companion every child (or former child) would love to have. For all the wonders of living out his fantasy, though, the civilized world always lurks at the edge of Sam's experience: a boy just can't up and disappear into trackless wilds in modern times. Dealing with this persistent pull figures into the climax of the story. Without spoilers, the ending isn't quite what I might have hoped, though it works okay within the tone and context of the book. It's a decent tale all in all, with many delightful details and some memorable moments.

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