My Side of the Mountain (Jean George) 4*

You’ve probably read it.  It’s as good now as it was then.

Sam Gribley is a 12-year-old boy in New  York who runs away to the old family land in the Catskills, which was abandoned three generations ago.  He has a pen-knife, an axe, some chocolate, flint and steel, string, and an obsessive amount of knowledge from the public library.  He burns a hollow in a tree, steals a peregrine nestling, and lives off the land.  He’s such a sweet kid, and he never has to use the bathroom once in the whole book.  I love it.

Ever since the first time I read the book, I have wanted to know if you really can boil water in a cabbage leaf.  Sam says that the leaf will burn down to the water line and stop there.  For 18 years I’ve wondered if this is true, but I never seem to have a campfire handy.

The weird thing is that Me(now) has picked up a surprising amount of botanical knowledge over Me(age10), so when I look at the author’s illustration of a wild potato plant, I nerdily think, “That’s a sweet potato, not a potato.  Latin name Ipomoea, looks like a morning glory.”  Maybe that’s why this book lit my nerdy imagination when I was 10.

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10 responses to “My Side of the Mountain (Jean George) 4*

  1. Did you ever read Hatchet?
    That was my favorite in 4th grade or so, in a similar vein.

    • Read both, liked My Side of the Mountain better. Sam chooses to head for the wilderness. Also, Jean George is a woman, so her books are less testosterone-infused than Gary Paulsen’s.

      • I read and loved both; My Side of the Mountain still resonates more strongly since it was my first 4th grade introduction to human v nature, to coming-of-age lit. I spent lots of time preparing to kill squirrels with slings, cook turtle soup, etc. Hatchet wasn’t assigned reading, so I read it later. Then I read the sequels of both: The Other Side of the Mountain and The River, and the latter definitely delivered. Gary Paulsen has a special place in my heart. His Winterdance was the first non-fiction book I ever picked up (about an >1000 mile sled dog race in Alaska), and it was the first time I thought about reading an author instead of reading a book. My best friend in 4th grade (special school) introduced me to this, and I found the whole enterprise to be highly sophisticated. My Side captured my heart, but Paulsen’s a crazy outdoorsman and the realism came through in a different way.

      • Oh, cuddles for our 10-year-old selves. Madeleine L’Engle in third grade was the first time I read an author and not a book. Before her, in fact, I used to wonder why the teachers would always announce some random name after the title of the book.
        I was such an obsessive L’Engle fangirl that I read most of her adult books, too, which are totally not appropriate for children. That lady has had a life, and she’s still going.

      • Have you read Juniper, by Monica Furlong? (Have I asked you this?) I was such a fangirl. Oh, it was one of Olivia’s friends (who came to Hay with us in ’06) who shared my obsession.

      • I’ve read the sequel, Wise Child, but not Juniper itself. One of my high school friends was a big fangirl for Juniper.

      • oh, that’s me. Juniper is still my favorite YA novel. I have a copy on my book shelf. it was the first book i bought entirely on my own based mostly on the cool owl on the cover. I bought it in middle school from the book sale in the library. ahh, memories.

      • The best books really stay the best forever! That’s totally cool that it’s also the first book you bought on your own. I have fond memories of methodically reading the library’s whole shelf of Madeleine L’Engle books and then raiding other libraries once the school library had been exhausted. That lady wrote a lot o’ books.

      • L’Engle–I read all of hers, too.
        I still credit her for introducing me to mitochondria.

      • Oh crap, L’Engle died almost exactly one year ago.
        Childhood’s over.

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