A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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
Themes & Topics
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