My Side of the Mountain by Jean George
A wilderness adventure book.
Reading level: 6.7

The Newbery Honor book, written in 1959, tells the story of Sam Gribley, the oldest of 9 children packed into a New York apartment. His father tells tales of the Gribley land in the Catskills that still belongs to the family. Sam, with $40 in his pocket, sets out to the farm. His father believes that all boys need an adventure and lets him go. It’s May. His father thinks he’ll be back the following day.

Sam is full of childish optimism. He is trusting of other adults and believes that everything will turn out fine. He uses the library to learn where the land is exactly and how to survive off the land. Except for a few hungry, cold days, he is successful. But a boy who can survive in the wilderness for an entire year becomes a curiosity. Soon, he has frequent visitors which changes how he feels about living remotely.

My side of the mountain is every boy’s fantasy. What if I could climb into the mountains and live off the water, plants and animals I find. In my fantasy, I would have a falcon that would help me hunt and be my companion. I would make friends with the animals I share the woods with. And I would avoid all other adults who want to find out about me and send me back into the city.

What keeps this book from becoming cliché is the sincerity in which the story is told and the detail that is given about finding and harvesting food in the woods. Sam’s age is not given but he is old enough to want independence from the crowded apartment he is living in with his large, poor family. He is young enough that he trusts adults not to harm him when he gets into their car or sleeps at their house. But he is at an age to be wary that adults also have the power to send him back to the city. I would put him between 12 and 15 years old. I would recommend this book to any child who is interested in adventure and survival in the woods. The age range for the reader of this book would be around 10 plus due to the many details that might be lost on younger students.

This book is a Newbery Honor book, the National Education Association “teachers top 100 books for children,” and it was named one of the “top 100 chapter books” of all time by the School Library Journal. There was a movie made in 1969. A sequel was published in 1991, with 5 more to follow.

George, J. (1959). My Side of the Mountain. New York, NY: EP Dutton and Co.