My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Novel: My Side of the Mountain

Author: Jean Craighead George

Target Audience:  9 and older

Genre: Survival

Publication Year: 1959

Setting: New York (the Catskill Mountains); I didn’t notice a specific date, but references made by the main character indicate it takes place sometime in the 1950’s. It surprised me to realize this as an adult–as a kid, I assumed it took place during my own lifetime (I imagined everything happening in the 1990’s).

A Favorite Quote: “Everybody laughed at me. Even Dad. I told Dad that I was going to run away to Great-grandfather Gribley’s land. He had roared with laughter and told me about the time he had run away from home.”

My One Sentence Summary: No one believes Sam Gribley when he decides he’s going to live off the land deep in the Catskill Mountains, but that’s exactly what Sam ends up doing.

What I loved about this book: Who doesn’t imagine themselves running away from home? Or leaving civilization behind? Or living off the land? I know that as a child Sam Gribley’s story had me absolutely enchanted. I loved the idea of living in a hollowed out tree, of training a falcon, and of knowing which plants were safe to eat. Sam faces challenging conditions–harsh weather, loneliness and isolation, and nosy townspeople. I enjoyed reading how he solves each problem as it arises.But I think–most of all–I enjoyed reading about the food. Sam is constantly planning meals, gathering ingredients, and experimenting with new seasonings. I was pretty excited when I learned that (in addition to her children’s books), Jean Craighead George also published cookbooks with real recipes using ingredients from My Side of the Mountain–the things that Sam makes in this book are, apparently, foods that an outdoorsman could actually make.

 Major themes: self-reliance and independence; beauty of the natural world; the need for freedom from society and city life

Who should read this book: A popular novel with boy (and girl) readers! This is a great story for young readers interested in survival and living off the land. A great piece of escapist fiction for anyone who has ever wanted to just run away and leave it all behind!

Series Order

  1. My Side of the Mountain
  2. On the Far Side of the Mountain
  3. Frightful’s Mountain