Monday, May 28, 2012


A couple weeks ago, we heard the sad news that Jean Craighead George died at the age of 92.  Read the obituary in Publisher's Weekly.

Her works included the Newbery Honor book MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (1959), which I just picked up from BookPeople and read (or maybe re-read).  I remember seeing and even checking it out of the library when I was a kid, but I have no specific memory of it.  I think I must not have read it, because I'm pretty sure I would have remembered it if I had. (Also, when writing CHRONAL ENGINE, I researched falconry because of a certain hatchling dromaeosaur and think I would've recollected a children's book that had featured it).

Anyway, I can't believe I missed out on it all these years:  MY SIDE has all the things I enjoyed in books when I was in elementary school: a smart, plucky protagonist; details on survival in the wilderness; and an awesome "pet" -- a Peregrine falcon he raised himself and taught to hunt. 

MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN is the story of Sam Gribley (in his early teens, I believe, although I don't think the novel actually gives his age), who runs away from his over-crowded home in New York City to his several times great-grandfather's land in the Catskill Mountains.  There, he survives almost an entire year (mostly by himself) before civilization catches up with him again.

MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, in addition to being a great story of survival in the wilderness (and how to survive), also has what might be the most awesome parents in all of children's literature.  Sam's father and mother actually let him run away from home.  To be sure, they knew he was heading to the old family property and figured he'd return the next day, but when he didn't, they let him stay. For nearly a year.  In these days of helicopter parenting and over-scheduling, it's terrific fun and kind of mind-boggling.

Also, a couple years ago, George and her daughter Twig published POCKET GUIDE TO THE OUTDOORS BASED ON MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN (Dutton 2009).  It provides a nice overview of wilderness survival and cross-references relevant portions from the novel.  Go check it out.

And turn down an empty glass.

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