Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Review: My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
genre: middle-grade reader, survival
Recently my mother told me about the chapter book that she read to my brother oh so long ago that turned him into a reader: My Side of the Mountain. When I found it at a used book sale, I snatched it up and started it as soon as possible. I read this one aloud to my six year old and my 9 year old often would sit around and listen also.
My cover says it's "The classic story of wilderness survival." I have to agree, and the only part of this book that I had a hard time swallowing was the fact that teen-aged Sam just up and left his apartment in New York City without a backwards glance and hiked out to the Catskills. All the rest, I ate up hook-line-and sinker. He doesn't just survive, that Sam - he flourishes. He taught my boy and I all about how to make five-course meals out of mountain plants, how to trap animals, how to make whistles out of reeds and how to turn a giant tree into a home. Animals became dear friends and a vital source of food. And whether he was training his falcon to hunt or using every part of the animals he caught, Sam treated every living thing in the woods with respect and care.
Sam's voice was friendly, honest and descriptive - the illustrations gave us a sense of the wildness of his place and nicely broke up the text. He let us peek into his life as the seasons changed and we got a view of winter in the mountains unlike any I've ever read. He made mistakes and worked things out, made friends and had to find ways to stay out of sight when nosy folks made their way around.
I sometimes worried that the story would get too "non-fiction" for my boy, but he never got bored - this one held his attention from start to finish. The things we read about let to numerous interesting discussions, especially about animals. As a read aloud for this mommy and her 1st grade son, this book deserves: