Last year I read a book that apparently many read in junior high and high school, but somehow I had missed. I read Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain. I got to share it this year with Roo who loved it as much as I do.
Sam Gribley, a young boy leaves New York to run away to the Catskill Mountains. . He takes off with supplies, a seemingly small amount of money (at least by today’s standards) and a goal; to live off the land, to be one with nature. He tells his parents of his plan, but apparently no one quite believed he would get very far. Sam hitchhiked out of town and as the trucker he got a ride with deposits him alongside the road Sam tells him of his plans:
“He laughed. Everybody laughed at me. Even Dad. I told Dad that I was going to run away to Great-grandfather Gribley’s land. He had roared with laughter and told me about the time he had run away from home. He got on a boat headed for Singapore, but when the whistle blew for departure, he was down the gangplank and home in bed before anyone knew he was gone. then he told me, “Sure, go try it. Every boy should try it.” ”
Written in 1959 this Newbery Honor winner obviously hales from a time when video games were not even a dream, baseball was a game on a vacant lot or a treat to go to a pro game. Soccer didn’t exist on this continent. What was on children’s minds then? My Side of the Mountain also speaks of a time when it was safe to hitchhike and parents were able to let their children roam freely without worry of “something terrible” happening. It seems idyllic and totally impossible. It seems almost childish in our very “sophisticated” world in the United States today. But after about the first two paragraphs the story became real and I jumped in with happiness.
My Side of the Mountain is the runaway dream that many children have; the perfect meeting with nature and the majesty of Sam’s mountain and his falcon Frightful.
Jean Craighead George touched her readers and continued with the sequels On the Far Side of the Mountain, Frightful's Mountain and Frightful’s Daughter.
This week we watched the 1969 movie made from the book. As almost always, the producers/directors/screenwriters decided they could do better than the original. And while it was a fine movie, as almost always, the book is infinitely better. The movie begins, not in New York, but in Toronto and moves to the Laurentian Mountains instead of the Catskill Mountains. The acting is satisfactory. The scenery is gorgeous. The film is as dated as the book—but it’s very likely why we all enjoyed it. This is the old-fashioned family film many of us remember growing up. Not loud, no fancy effects, nothing from outer space, no super heroes. Just a simple premise and a goal to entertain.
We enjoy reading books and watching movies based on the books and discussing and critiquing them here. I recommend the movie as acceptable for all ages. There is some sadness in it with the death of a couple animals, but it is certainly not violent. The book I highly recommend again as a read aloud for