Book Review: My Side Of The Mountain

This book is arguably my favorite as a child. I had the extreme pleasure of discovering it on my bookshelf a few weeks ago and decided to re-read it for old times sake. I have to say, it's still an amazing story. Some of the fantasy of it was lost because I've gotten older and realize how impractical some of it is. But it's a story I hope to share with my kids someday, should God and my future wife decide to grace me with any.
The story of Sam Gribley was written back in 1959. So I'm not kidding when I say this book could very well have been my mother's favorite book as a kid too.
Sam does what every American boy dreams of doing, and that is running away successfully. He lives with a big family in NYC, and dreams of the simplicity of country life. His family owned land back in the day in the Catskill Mountains, so he hitch-hikes up there. That's flag one for my adult mind. Hitch-hiking is bad!
What strikes me as a great lesson for this story to children is simply the always be prepared. I know the Scouts program kind of pushes that. I was a cub scout back in the day; guess if I stuck with it I would feel more prepared overall. By prepared I mean that Sam Gribley did his homework before running away. He knew how to identify plants and animals. He knew what foods were safe and unsafe. He knew how to skin many types of animals and make use of everything on them that he could. He had a great imagination that resulted in some interesting makeshift creations to deal with his country life.
Now by country life I think some are getting the impression that he had a log cabin and an axe to chop wood. Nope. Sam had a hatchet and the clothes on his back when he went up there. I might be leaving out a few small detailed items, but it seemed like everything else he made or found himself. And he didn't build a cabin. There was an ancient old tree that was rotting out on the inside. He burned out the rot, and made a real tree house INSIDE the tree.
The cover as I'm sure you noticed has a hawk on it. That would be his companion that he found and trained after a short while in the mountains named Frightful. He stole her from the nest, trained her to kill for him, and shared the food with her. I've always liked hawks, and something about holding up your arm and whistling just to have a lethal bird of prey swoop down and land on your arm just sounds awesome.
The story ends as we imagine it should with the world trying to look for him. Sure he has a bit more elbow room than most. But the section of mountains he went to isn't completely uninhabited, and after awhile people start wondering about that boy with the hawk that the hunters keep claiming stole their deer.
I've given away a lot of what makes this story great. But trust me, if you try to regress to the mind of a child and ignore some small impracticalities, this book will thrill you and you'll fall in love with it like my mother and I did as children.
After re-reading it I went online to find the author, Jean Craighead George, had written several more with this same character or place. My Side of the Mountain was the beginning of a trilogy! I will certainly be tracking them down at my library. Can't wait to see what neat adventures and creations Sam Gribley and his hawk discover.