Tuesday, May 8, 2012

MG Book Review: My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George

General Information
Publisher:  Penguin Group
Year of publication:  2001 (first published in 1959)
# of chapters:  22
# of pages:  177
Genre:  Adventure
Website:  www.jeancraigheadgeorge.com

Plot summary:  (from Goodreads)
Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude and danger of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.

Next books in the series:  
#2: On the Far Side of the Mountain (1990)
#3: Frightful's Mountain (1999)

Other related books:
Frightful's Daughter (2002) - Picture Book
Frightful's Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel (2007) - Picture Book
Pocket Guide to the Outdoors: Based on My Side of the Mountain (2009) - Non Fiction

Positive Points
I learned a lot about survival in the wilderness by reading this book. The story is packed with actual information, such as how to make a fishing hook out of wood, how to train a baby falcon, and how to cook food on a campfire.

Many books have one or two animals as characters, but this book has many types of real-life animals in it - Frightful the falcon, Baron the weasel, ... In fact, most characters are animals, and they communicate in their own ways.  There are a few random human visitors as well, but they're not nearly as interesting.

The main character, Sam, is a young boy who runs away from home to live in the woods, where he learns to survive on his own.  His reactions and thoughts were very natural and believable. I could recognize my son in him at times.  Very realistic. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew him well.  He had his own flaws.  At times he got discouraged and wanted to go home, but he loved the woods so much that he decided to stay despite the challenges he faced.

By reading this book, kids (and adults who love reading MG like I do) can experience what it's like to live in the wilderness, even if they'll never run away from home like the boy in the book. It's satisfying to explore areas that we would otherwise never have a chance to discover.

Negative Points
The ending didn't make sense to me. I won't say more about it, not to spoil it for those of you who haven't read it yet, but I was surprised how it ended.  Also, the parents' reaction was not realistic. How can parents let their child run away and not come look for him?  Despite all that, I really loved the story so I'm still giving it five stars.

What makes this book unique
The writing style was mainly in first person POV, but some parts were his notes jotted down on pieces of bark, in first person POV.  He's re-reading his notes once in a while, as it relates to each part of the story being told.  This added some depth to the book and made it different than other adventure novels.

Overall Impression
The whole theme of survival in the forest is fascinating, and the story is very well written.  No wonder this book won the Newberry Medal! If you love animals and nature as much as I do, this book is for you.

My Rating:


Jess said...

I remember loving this book as a young girl! Your post makes me want to read it as an adult who writes for a hobby, to see if my perspective changes at all.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Sounds like any kid who enjoys Gary Paulsen books would like this one. Thanks for the review!

Annie McMahon said...

You should read it again, Jess. Awesome read!

Karen, Hatchet has been on my list for a LONG time, but I haven't read it yet.

Marcia said...

Thanks -- this makes me want to go back and reread it. I don't really recall the ending, although the story was first written and published in a time when kids ran much freer than they do now. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous said...

oh! i randomly saw this book when i was searching for "mountain" books (weird, i know), and marked it as to read. thanks for the inside info!

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