On the Far Side of the Mountain
(The My Side of the Mountain trilogy, Book 2)
Jean Craighead George
Fiction, YA Adventure
DESCRIPTION: Two years ago, young Sam Gribley ran away from his New York City apartment to live in the wilderness. One year ago, his family came to live with him... but only his sister Alice remained, as his father and mother learned why their ancestors had abandoned the family farm. Alice challenges Sam with new ideas and projects, from a tree house home to a sawmill, but she's better company than he expected. Between her and his faithful falcon Frightful, not to mention visitors like the English professor Bando and his wife, he's happy with his life on the mountain, and never lonely.
Then, on the same day, both Alice and Frightful vanish, one disappearing and the other taken by a wildlife conservation officer. Peregrines are an endangered species, and owning one without a falconer's license is technically a felony. In following Alice from his familiar terrain, tracking her by woodcraft and clues she's left behind, Sam tries to forget about Frightful... until he discovers that that "officer" may not have been who he claimed, and his sister may be in far more danger than she understands.
REVIEW: This is a worthy sequel to George's classic My Side of the Mountain, with the same love of the Adirondack wilderness shining in every page and the same use of ink illustrations. Sam builds on experience and woodcraft gained in his first adventure, moving slowly (if somewhat reluctantly) away from the boyish fantasy of living alone in a tree to a somewhat more sophisticated and civilized experience - a necessary growth, as he realizes that utter loneliness is as unpleasant as it is impossible in modern times. In doing so, he tries to strike a balance between comfort (and companionship) and a connection with nature. Alice gives him motivation to change, not just in her many projects but in literally pulling him from his comfort zone in her cross-country trek... though, for all her woodcraft, she comes across as somewhat immature. Sam thought he'd learned all he needed to know about himself and the wilderness in the first book, but this volume teaches him more. It also touches on issues of conservation, endangered species protection, and the illegal animal trade. If the first volume was about Sam proving that he could survive, this is the story of Sam truly growing up and learning to see the larger world. It almost earned an extra half-star, though some of the later bits feel a little forced. It's still quite enjoyable, and holds up rather well.
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