My Side of the Mountain
By Barbara Schultz,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Gripping, inspiring wilderness-survival adventure.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn about wilderness survival: edible wild foods, trapping game, fishing, behavior of wildlife, nutrition found in different foods, starting a fire and cooking. The book also includes geographical information about the Catskill Mountains and New York state in general.
Though not too many parents of teenagers would be happy to see their child head off to the mountains alone to live off the land, My Side of the Mountain invites kids to question the need for material things, and shows how much young people can accomplish using their own wits and powers of observation.
Positive Role Models
Sam is an unusual but strong role model, showing how much he can achieve by tapping his own intelligence and powers of observation. Young readers will be inspired by Sam's ability to live off the land -- without grown-ups.
Violence & Scariness
The violence in My Side of the Mountain is all against animals. Hunters track and shoot deer near Sam's mountain home. Sam traps animals and butchers them for food and/or skins them for clothing or other necessities. Sam also catches fish and turtles to eat, and his trained falcon helps him catch small game (such as rabbits). All of this is described matter-of-factly, with no sentiment and no gore, but younger kids might be upset by the deer killing and skinning.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George's classic novel about a teen boy who leaves New York City's crowds and noise to live a solitary life in the Catskills, is an unusual but inspiring story of wilderness survival. Though it's difficult to imagine many parents encouraging their teenagers to leave home and live off the land, Sam displays impressive resourcefulness and self confidence, making him an inspiring role model for boys in particular. His refreshing disregard for material things and the way he welcomes the hard work of subsisting in the wild are exemplary and eye-opening. However, some youngsters may be upset by the killing, skinning, and cooking of woodland creatures. Kids my be interested to read the two sequels, as well: The Other Side of the Mountain, published 30 years after the first book, and Frightful's Mountain, published 10 years after that, and told from the falcon's point of view.
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What's the Story?
Teen Sam Gribley dislikes living in his large family's overcrowded New York apartment, so he decides to leave town and live on the land his grandfather used to farm in the Catskills. Once he's arrived at the wilderness that used to be Gribley's Farm, Sam applies all of his powers of memory and observation -- and everything he can learn in the nearby Delhi public library -- to survive on his own. Sam learns how to hollow out a tree for shelter, build a fire, and forage, fish, and set traps for food. He even trains a falcon, which he names Frightful, to hunt for him. However, after some months, many suspenseful and amusing adventures, and a few visits from passersby, word gets out about the \"wild boy\" living in the Catskill Mountains, and Sam begins to wonder if he can keep civilization at bay.
Is It Any Good?
Since it was first published in 1959, the award-winning MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN has inspired scores of kids to want to test their own survival skills. Sam's adventures are timelessly exciting, and the details of his wilderness life are truly fascinating; readers can't help but admire his independence and wonder what his life would be like. In addition, descriptions of the foods Sam eats (cattails taste like potato if you chew them long enough), the suit of clothes he makes from animal skins (even underwear), and the antics of animals he befriends provide loads of amusement to today's readers. In some ways, this novel is both simple and strange, but the premise is a winner and Sam's adventures continue to entertain readers year after year.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can discuss the notion of spending a year living alone in the wilderness. Would you like to do it? Why, or why not?
Try keeping a journal like Sam, and write down the things you learn.
Learn more about Sam's survival skills by reading Jean Craighead George's spinoff book Pocket Guide to the Outdoors: Based on My Side of the Mountain.
- Author: Jean Craighead George
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Puffin Books
- Publication date: January 1, 1959
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 192
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Newbery Medal and Honors
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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