I should have read of this book as a kid—I’m pretty sure I have read other books by this author (Julie of the Wolves)—but it took several recommendations, 30 years, and a lucky day at the flea market to get it on my shelf. But I’m glad I got to read it as an adult. The writing is simplistic, but with my survival lit obsession in full swing, I probably enjoyed it even more than I would have way back when.
My Side of the Mountain is about a young boy who runs away from home. Home is New York City, in a small apartment with eight other people. When he finds out that his family owns land in the American Catskills, he leaves home to find it. His family doesn’t believe he’ll follow through, that, like most kids who decide to run away from home, he’ll be back in time for dinner. Instead he hitchhikes to the Catskills, finds the family property, builds a shelter inside of a tree, trains a falcon who helps him hunt, and spends over a year living off the land.
The writing is, as I said, simplistic, and so is the story, but the real joy of the book is the information it contains. If you want to teach a kid about how to survive in the wilderness without said kid even realizing what is happening, this is the book to help you do it. There are detailed instructions (often with illustrations) about how to do things like build a shelter, start a fire, and boil water in a leaf. Cool stuff.
George doesn’t settle for an easy ending either, which made me appreciate the book all the more. The boy doesn’t just return home and forget about his time in the forest or stay alone there forever (I’ll leave out the details and leave you some surprise) , and he eventually has to deal with the fact that wherever one human lives, the seeds of a city have been planted.
Four out of six and a half falcons.
Where I got it: Flea market