My Side of the Mountain (Puffin Modern Classics)

by Jean Craighead George

Paperback, 2004



Local notes

PB Geo


Puffin Books (2004), Edition: English Language, Paperback, 192 pages


A young boy relates his adventures during the year he spends living alone in the Catskill Mountains including his struggle for survival, his dependence on nature, his animal friends, and his ultimate realization that he needs human companionship.


Original publication date


Physical description

192 p.; 7.09 x 5.12 inches


0142401110 / 9780142401118



User reviews

LibraryThing member TadAD
I first read this book in 1965. Up until that point, I was a fairly desultory reader. I read well but was pretty much only interested in comics and did the bare minimum required for school. I thought the school books were stupid...which is eight-year-old-boy speak for "boring." Then, at the beginning of third grade, my teacher gave a couple of the technically more proficient readers a challenge: read what the curriculum specifies and participate in the class discussion, or, read whatever 20 books you want over the school year and have a one-on-one conversation with her on each one.

My Side of the Mountain was the first book I picked and I couldn't have made a better choice to become hooked on reading. I've probably read the book 10 times since then and while, to adult eyes, the book is a bit fanciful, there's no doubt that it's perfectly written to capture the imagination of a child. There is adventure, discovery and, most important, a lesson in independence. All this packaged safely...the book will not impel your child to go out and wander the streets of New York; the reader somehow knows that this is fiction, not a recipe for life.

This book pushed me to complete my first 20 Book Challenge (*smile*) and go on to a life of reading. I don't think you can ask much more from a novel.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
A fascinating journal - it recounts a year in the life of Sam Gribley, a boy who escape from home in the crowded city of New York to life in the wilderness in the Catskills. It’s sort of a "Walden meets Robinson Crusoe” - the children’s edition.

It is his desire to get away from a large family and crowded apartment that initially drives him to the woods. Also the dream of living free and independent with noone to bother him. Fascinating to find out how he survives building a shelter, making clothes and hunting for food - and trying to make it through winter with stored up provisions. He also captures and trains a peregrine falcon named Frightful. And slowly he befriends a teacher and even his father comes to visit during Christmas.

He has not run a way in that sense. His father has an idea of where he is - also the local librarian where he comes to read about plants and wild life in order to survive. I wonder…it all sounds quite incredible that a boy should be left alone like that for so long…but maybe not so incredible back in 1950’s. Well, the suspension of disbelief and all that.

During winter there’s a growing conflict in Sam. The disire to be alone and the desire of human fellowship - there’s a good coming-of-age story as well in My Side of the Mountain.
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LibraryThing member catz
I like survival storys and this is kind of like a survival story. It's really cool how in the story he makes his house in a tree and he catches his own food and how he makes friends with animals.I think Jean did a really great job with this book.
LibraryThing member mazeway
Classic. I loved it more with each time I read it. As a child, it made me wish I could run away and live in a hemlock tree. As an adult, reading to my children, I secretly hope they want to run away and live in a hemlock tree (but am relieved when they dont'). A near-perfect book.
LibraryThing member pjellaby
I loved this book as a child, would love to meet someone else who has read it. I remember talking about it to a girl at Guide Camp who was being teased and I didn't do anything to make her feel better/ protect her. perhaps she is out there.
I read and re-read it and then read it again, admittedly I was starved for books ( a visit to the library was arare treat and my parents just did not spend money on books) but I think it would have been a favourite anyway.

Back to the book. A boy goes to live in the Catskills (Near New York) . He details how he survives and eventually flourishes, having a home in a tree trunk and delicious wild food, deer-hide clothing and friends among the mountain fauna. Eventually his family come to join them, which I found a bit of a downer, can't remember why he ran away in the first place.
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LibraryThing member BirdBrian
This novel suffers a bad case of what I call "Tom Sawyer Syndrome", and by that I mean that it is a childrens' book with a main character adults seem to adore, but if a kid were ever to actually do the things the kid in this book does, the adults in his life would never stand for it. The boy in the story, Sam, runs away from home and lives alone in the wilderness for over a year (on the side of the titular mountain). Why is it that kids in these survival tales are glamourized, but adults living out in the wild are all portrayed as either (1) ass-raping hillbillies a'la Deliverance; (2) right-wing psychopaths a'la Ted Kaczynski; (3) pitiful, directionless lost-soul types like that guy Chris in Into the Wild; or (4) groussing crumudgeons like Henry David Theoreau in Thoughts from Walden Pond? The only positive wilderness-living adults I can think of in literature are the ones who are stranded in some remote location against their will, like Robinson Crusoe. That's too bad, because there actually are some people (adults) out there who really could survive in the wild, and that is pretty amazing. On the other hand, the idea of a twelve year old raised in an urban environment just going out and surviving and thriving the way Sam does in this story is ludicrous. Even if he did manage to catch enough fish and gather enough berries to feed himself I just think it's very likely he'd die of exposure, or fall prey so some animal eventually. All the boy-wonder Disney adventure crap in My Side of the Mountain is pure naïve self-delusion. If there are any twelve year old city kids out there who were taken by this story, and who are entertaining the idea of running away from home to become a solitary self-reliant mountain man, I would encourage them to consider the following list of things much more likely to happen than the adventures Sam had in this book:

1) His parents notice he's gone missing, and alert the police, who easily identify him at the bus station and bring him home.
2) Sam's parents anticipate he would go to the abandoned family farm upstate, and wait for him there.
3) Sam comes to his senses early on, realizes there is no realistic way he can live in the wild, and returns home in less than a week.
4) Sam abandons the whole idea of living in the wild and goes off to try to live with friends or family (who probably tell his parents what's up)
5) Sam trusts some stranger he meets on the bus, or hitchhiking up to the old family farm. His abused body is found in a ditch a few days later, or -best possible case scenerio- a private eye his family hired locates him a few years later in Tijuana dancing on tables for crack and candy bars.
6) Sam gets lost in the woods and starves to death.
7) Sam gets lost in the woods and freezes to death.
8) Sam gets eaten by a bear.
9) Sam falls, breaks a bone, and dies in the woods of starvation or dehydration.
10) Sam gets eaten by a bear. I listed this twice because seriously, that's what would happen.

So accepting the irrefutible fact that Sam would be eaten by a bear, I have to wonder why a story like this gets to be such a classic. I think it plays into both children and adults' fantasies about kids growing up and becoming independent. Many parents must look at their obese kids sitting for hours each day on the sofa, completely incapable of any original thought, but fully versed in the latest comings and goings of the Kardashian sisters, and they must think to themselves: "Gee, I wish my kids would run away from home and develop useful survival skills in the wilderness (and get eaten by a bear)." And it's true; it would be better and healthier for everybody if that would happen more often. On the other hand, kids sit around, as they have since the dawn of time, wishing they had more independence, embarrassed of the hypocritical life they must lead, which forces them to continually say things to their parents like "It's my life, and I can do what I want! ...but can I borrow the keys to the car tonight?" A book like this must seem wonderful to them... Sam goes off into the wild, with nobody to answer to, and carves out an existance for himself. Of course it would be more fun if he also had his cellphone and laptop with internet access, so he could check on Wikipedia whether those funny looking mushrooms are poisonous or not, and access to Facebook, so he could "update" his friends every 10 minutes, with helpful missives like "Still raining out here. I'm getting hungry again... think I'll check and see whether any new berries grew on that bush I saw earlier." Of course, Facebook or not, the kid would still eventually end up getting eaten by a bear.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
This 1960 Newbery Honor book is also an American Library Association notable book. Chronicling the adventures of 13 year old Sam Gribley who left home to brave the wild in the Catskill mountains of New York. If you can dispel your parental questions of how in the world a young man can leave home and not be hounded down by his distraught parents, then this book will be a gem for you.

Sam fulfills the dream of young and old alike who long to escape the madness of society and live like Henry David Thoreau with nature as your only companion.

Living for a year in the forest, Sam is totally self sustaining.

The author notes that publishers originally rejected her book for fear it would encourage young adults to run away from home.
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LibraryThing member PamelaDLloyd
I loved this book as a child, as did my sons, particularly my youngest, who had trouble learning to read. I think this book was the first that ever made him excited about reading.
LibraryThing member frankphi
I was first read "My side of the Mountain" in the 4th grade at Westside School.
I still hear Sam's words in the voice of Mrs. Quaid, our teacher.
I really liked the book. I thought it was really sad that Sam felt he could leave home because he had so many siblings for his parents to care for. I found the scene where his dad comes to visit very interesting and made me think about my relationship to my own father.
I liked the ways Sam made a home in the wilderness, though it is difficult to believe once could find a tree with a large enough circumference to burn out and live in. Some of those srvival skills seemed a bit fake, but it was a good read. I will always appreciate Mrs. Quaid taking the tim and choosing that book to read to us.
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LibraryThing member dylangoeagles
A wonderful adventure story for independent readers.
LibraryThing member laf
This is a book everyone should read. It's full of excitement and fun. Personally, my favorite character is Frightful, a Peregrine Falcon that is king of the skies.
LibraryThing member cmckee
As Sam Gribley runs away from crowded New York and heads for the forest of the Catskill Mountains where his great-grandfather had owned land long ago, he takes the reader on an adventure that many long for: escape from hectic society and return to our primitive roots. He takes only a small penknife, flint, some cord, and forty dollars, planning to use the wilderness for his every need. The strength of the story is the ever increasing tasks Sam must attempt to accomplish using his own intelligence and creativity as well as his relationship with a falcon he finds and a few humans who happen upon his tree cave. The weakness of such a story is that it implies survival in the wild is fairly easy when, indeed, most would perish in the isolated, blizzard conditions of the winter mountains. The story, however, allows for teaching of various survival skills and historical accounts of failures such as the Donner Party in the high Sierra of California.… (more)
LibraryThing member Ashwell
I read this all the way through in one sitting. I realize that it's only about 165 pages or so, but that's still not something I do quite often, as I read at a conversational (i.e. slow) pace. To be fair, I was also home from work with a wretched sore throat and had nothing else to do but be in bed reading.

But this was a great way to pass that miserable time.

As a woman who's spent quite a bit of time outside and isn't afraid of the outdoors, I found this to be a very interesting read. It's about a boy who runs away from home to live in the wilderness - and he succeeds. I have friends who 'live off the land,' without running water, without electricity, without plumbing, but this beats all that in a way that I've never actually seen in real life. Still, it seems plausible enough, and has some interesting historical touches here and there (the book was written in the fifties, so, for example, when the boy does run into other human beings and receives news of the world, they tell him about the latest atom bomb tests that have occurred and things of that nature).

I loved this book right up until about the last five or so pages, and was dismayed by the ending, but everything leading up to that still made it more than worthwhile. This is a book worth seeking out.
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LibraryThing member kirkonly
My Side of the Mountain tells the story of a boy who runs away from the city to learn to survive on his own in nature. He gives you a detailed account of how he survives from day to day (even hour to hour sometimes). You find yourself drawn into this story right from the beginning

As a student this is a book is a book that i would use if i wanted to survive in the wild!! It is a great book full of adventure, values, and humor!! Higly Recommended

As a teacher this book is a great book to use in a survival lesson. Sam gives such a great discription of what it is like to live in the mountains!! I can also have my students start to write a journal of when they lived in the mountains!
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LibraryThing member akamarian
My Side of the Mountain tells the story of a boy (2 years from needing to shave) who runs away from the city to learn to survive on his own in nature. The story is told from Sam Gribley’s point of view. He’s personable and practical, and his detailed account of how he survives from day to day (even hour to hour sometimes) is fascinating. You find yourself drawn into his narrowing perspective, where all he thinks about, cares about, is how to get his meals, how to sleep comfortably, and even what the birds and animals who live near his tree are doing. His personality, especially his practicality and his joy in his accomplishments, is clearly written. His growing need for human contact is jarring to the reader, so involving is his survival adventure. The reader feels the loss as keenly as Sam does when his focus on nature waivers as he grows to need human contact.… (more)
LibraryThing member Oreillynsf
Absolutely my favorite book of childhood. I truly believe every child should read this to get an appreciation for nature, animals, and the tremendous resources all of us can call upon to do what is necessary. I recently reread it as an adult and was just as amazed at how such simple prose can be so profound.The story of a boy who runs away from a comfortable life to live off the land in rural New York State.… (more)
LibraryThing member shoebacca
There ought to be a special shelf in any library about running away from home, and this book ought to be on it. Sam is a young boy who decides to leave his family's overcrowded apartment in New York City to live in the woods. He lives by himself, learning how to build a fire and find shelter, catch fish and frogs and turtles, gather nuts and bulbs and flowers, and be independent--most of all how to get used to being alone. The book is full of drawings and has plenty of real information that would actually come in very handy if one were ever to be living off the land-- but it would probably be more difficult than it seems (at first) from reading this book. The end is a little abrupt, as many readers have noticed, but along the way the story shows so many convincing things about Sam's thinking and learning and the little things he notices in his year alone that it feels rewarding all the same. I predict this book will remind you of the quiet times you feel when you are camping.… (more)
LibraryThing member michaele4kk
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is an intriguing book about a young boy named Sam Gribbley who runs away from NYC to live in the Catskill mountains. In this book you follow Sam and Frightful, his pet falcon, on a journey to survive in the Catskills by themslves. Sam goes on many dangerous adventures and is faced by more than one deadly wild animal. Everything seems fine and dandy for Sam living out on his own with Frightful to keep him company but he soon realizes that winter is just around the corner which means no more animals to hunt and no more vegetation to pick. My Side of the Mountain teaches many cool survival tricks and demonstrates companionship between man and nature. By the end of this book you will want to become a survivalist living on your own with your own pet falcon. My Side of the Mountain screams out at anybody who has a love for nature and animals. I just couldn't put it down.… (more)
LibraryThing member SandraKLee
Jean Craighead George has also written a pocket guide to the outdoors. Book features black and white sketches. Reading guide available. Has become a trilogy. Available on CD. Made into Motion Picture.
LibraryThing member CKmtl
An excellent children's book with an engaging plot and memorable characters. The wilderness and survival information (edible plants, trapping methods, etc.) are well incorporated and, at least in my case, inspired a hunger for further learning.

When I received this now-yellowed copy at school through Scholastic, my mother happened to be working in an office building that had a nesting pair of Peregrines. I desperately wanted figure out how to get to the nest and sneak off with a falcon chick.… (more)
LibraryThing member johnredmond
Looooooved this book when I was in grade 2. Haven't read it since then!
LibraryThing member lchs.mrso
I would recommend this book to any one who likes camping and being in the out doors.
LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
This is one of my favorite books, because within the story of how Sam runs away from home, we learn all about how he survives. I find the details of Sam's life in a tree gathering food and making things for himself more exciting than him running away. The survival information is fascinating, and of course, Frightful the falcon is awesome.… (more)
LibraryThing member jubjub_luver1
I really loved this book! It was a great view of nature and it was a interesting survival story.
LibraryThing member alexcirasuolo
This book is a masterpiece of children's literature! It is an award winning book!

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