Monday, May 9, 2011

My Side of the Mountain (Book)

Author: Jean Craighead George. Release date: 1959. Publisher:  Puffin Books. ISBN: 9780140348107.
Plot summary: Thirteen-year-old Sam Gribley decides one day that he is fed up with his life in New York City and decides to run away to live in the Catskill Mountains. All Sam brings with him on his journey is a few tools including a knife and some flint and steel. After arriving in the Catskill Mountains, Sam has some trouble battling nature. He catches a fish but is unable to make a fire at first to cook it. He isn’t sure which plants he can eat and which are poisonous. With the help of some passing travelers, however, Sam soon learns how to survive and begins to enjoy his new way of life.
Review:  This classic tale does not have an overly complicated plot, but is still a very enjoyable survival story. Most tweens have undoubtedly contemplated the idea of running away and living in the wilderness, but Sam actually does it. Readers will enjoy the detailed descriptions of how he manages to create a rather nice life for himself in the beautiful Catskills. The story will likely create an interest in nature for many tweens. My Side of the Mountain would make an ideal choice for a reluctant reader, especially a male tween, because it has a simple but interesting story. Animal lovers will also enjoy this title as Sam befriends many woodland creatures.
Genre: Fiction/Survival Story
Reading level: Grades 4-7
Similar titles: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, and sequels to My Side of the Mountain.
Personal thoughts: As I mentioned in my entry for Hatchet, I was a huge survival story fan as a tween and remember loving My Side of the Mountain. Picking it up as an adult was a real treat, especially since I was better able to geographically place where the story takes place. I was a little wary of Sam simply running away to live in the woods, but I don’t think the story encourages readers to run away by any means. I would highly recommend this book to tween boys, especially reluctant readers, as it’s a very easy title to breeze through.
Themes:  Survival, nature, living off the land.
Awards/Reviews:  Newbery Honor Award Winner.
Series Information: Four sequels published beginning in the 1990s: On the Far Side of the Mountain (1991), Frightful’s Mountain (1999), Frightful’s Daughter (2002), Frightful’s Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel (2007).
Character information:
Sam Gribley – Thirteen-year-old boy who runs away from his home in New York City to live off the land in the Catskill Mountains.
Annotation:   Thirteen-year-old Sam Gribley decides that he’s fed up with life in the big city and runs away from his home in New York to live off the land in the Catskill Mountains. Will he be able to survive the elements long enough to create the serene life he’s envisioning?

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