Mar 22, 2012

#TheList, No. 817: My Side of the Mountain

I'm an indoors kid. My near-transparent skin earned me the nickname "Pasty" in high school.  Accordingly, I'm probably not the target audience for Jean Craighead George's book about a teenage boy who runs away from NYC to live in the wilderness. That said, I actually liked the book.  But we all want to run away at some point in our lives, so I guess it's something with which we can all relate.

Sam runs away to live a simple life in the Catskill Mountains and ends up hunting, gathering, and making friends with all the woodland creatures he doesn't eat.  The book is presented out of order: we meet Sam while he's snowed in his tree-house (literally a house inside of a tree), and he takes us back to when he first "ran away," using both his narration and notes from his adventures until the story comes back to winter and continues into spring.  All the while, Sam's story is on the verge of becoming a media frenzy. 

It's interesting to see the animals go from being animals, to tools for hunting, to substitutes for people.  When Sam encounters actual people camping, it's amusing to see him take on a teaching role as he simultaneously tries to ensure that no one will come to bring him back to NYC. 

I didn't really have a problem with it until the last few pages.  His entire family, tiny tots and all, come to live with him because his mother is sick of the neighbors talking about how she must not be a good mother.  First of all, you're from NYC. You don't interact with your neighbors.  Also, your son wanted to escape city living and now you're building a house in his environment and doing everything he hated.  And while that's responsible, that's also super annoying to the reader (or at least to me).  Anyway, this is the start of the series, so I'm assuming the next book, On the Far Side of the Mountain, addresses the problems Sam has with his family living with him. 

Because this book was published in 1959, long before children had microchips implanted in their arms, there are a lot of activities children could do with this book.  Comparing the media reactions of a child missing/running away in the 50s and today, discussing the technology that children would probably try to rely on if they ran away to live in the woods, researching the animal behavior explained in the book, and predicting what will happen in the remainder of the series are some that come to mind immediately. 

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