The Newbery Award winning novel My Side of the Mountain is about a teenage boy named Sam Gribley. Tired of city life in an overcrowded apartment, Sam decides to find the family land in the mountains and live on his own. Sam’s adventure is one of courage, survival, and independence.
When Sam Gribley leaves for the Catskill Mountains not far from his family’s crowded apartment in the city, all he has with him is an ax, a ball of cord, $40.00, and a penknife. After hitching a ride into the mountains, he stays the night with a man named Bill, who teaches him how to build a fire, and learns how to find the family land on a map in the library. He has researched and prepared, and is ready to take on the wilderness alone.
When Sam finds the farm, he burns out a large hole in an old tree; for even though the family farm had been deserted for years, hikers still pass through and he did not want to be seen. When his new shelter was complete, Sam was proud of what he had done. After meeting an old woman who needed help picking (his precious!) strawberries, Sam walks her home to town and visits the library again. The kind Miss Turner helps him research falcons, for Sam was hoping to train a falcon to help him find food. Soon after, Sam finds a falcon’s nest and takes one of the babies to raise as his own, which he names Frightful.
As Sam becomes more and more adept at living in the mountains, he meets a weasel named The Baron, and a raccoon Jessie C. James. He learns that hunters often hit a target and then cannot find it, which means deer meat and hide for Sam. Sam makes his own clothes, trains Frightful to hunt, and eats well each day. One day, when Sam returns to his tree, he finds a man sleeping in his spot. The man, who Sam affectionately calls Bando, is a college English professor who loves what Sam has done so much that he decides to join him for a while. After an autumn full of hunters who cannot find their targets, Sam lives fruitfully off of the meat and stays warm with the clothing he has made. When Christmastime arrives, Bando comes back for a visit, and Sam’s father comes as well! It is a wonderful time together indeed.
As springtime arrives, a young boy named Matt, who writes articles for the paper after school, comes around asking about the “wild boy”. Sam claims he is not this boy, but that he’s met him, and tells Matt all about him. Matt knows that Sam is the boy that he is looking for, and promises not to tell his secret if Sam lets him stay with him over spring vacation. Matt returns and spends time with Sam, and when Bando joins them, they decide to make a “guest house” in a nearby tree for Sam’s visitors. As time goes on, Sam enjoys his life of solitude and his frequent visitors a great deal; for he has the best of both worlds. News of the boy who lives in the woods has spread all over the city, and photographers come to see Sam. One day, to his surprise, Sam’s whole family comes to see him. His mother, who has missed her son a great deal, tells him that if he doesn’t want to be in the city, then they will bring the city to him. With that, Sam’s family joins him in the wilderness, and he couldn’t be happier.
My Side of the Mountain is an inspirational story about survival, family, and the power of nature. It is sure to delight students and teachers of all ages, and is a must have in any classroom curriculum.