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A boy named Sam Gribley runs away from his home in New York to live in the Catskill Mountains. The book documents his time up in the Catskills, and is a detailed and fairly realistic take on how to go about wilderness survival.
Written by Jean Craighead George in 1959, it received a Newbery Honor, and was adapted into a somewhat-obscure film ten years later. As of now there are four sequels to My Side of the Mountain: the direct sequel On the Far Side of the Mountain (with no relation to Gary Larson's comic), and the three sequels told from the perspective of falcons, Frightful's Mountain, Frightful's Daughter, and Frightful's Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel.
It was made into a film in 1969. Many things were changed, including Sam's motivation for going to the mountain. He's no longer a runaway but is instead a budding scientist seeking to learn from nature. He also returns home at the end instead of having his family join him in the wilderness.
Provides examples of:
- All Animals Are Domesticated: While falcons can be domesticated, most peregrines aren't as social as Frightful and it's hardly as easy as Sam makes it seem.
- Big Badass Bird of Prey: She's even called Frightful.
- Death by Adaptation: At the end of the movie version of My Side of the Mountain, Frightful the hawk gets shot and dies. In the book, she not only lives, but ends up with three sequels focusing on her.
- Egomaniac Hunter: Sam scavenges a few deer off these guys.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: It could be part of his personality, taking everything in stride, but Sam never seems to encounter any major setbacks. Even getting scurvy and carbon monoxide poisoning aren't shown as anything but minor, temporary and maybe even funny obstacles.
- Kids Wilderness Epic
- Moral Guardians: Initially Jean Craighead George had trouble getting this book published because publishers thought Moral Guardians would object to the book on the grounds that it encouraged children to run away from home and live in the woods.
- Whether or not this was justified, at least George explained quite clearly before Sam left that he did know how to live off the land and find food, even before he left. Furthermore, the actual steps required in living off the land are explained quite clearly as involving a lot of work. Presumably most children reading this book can read between the lines and find the message "Sam knows how to do this, had to work a lot, and still got sick and ran into trouble. Unless you know what Sam does, you won't make it, so stay home."
- Shown Their Work: My Side of the Mountain is no Hatchet, but it's pretty clear that the author did a lot of research on how to go about living in the woods by yourself before writing this book.
- Smelly Skunk: Sam learns an important lesson about why you shouldn't feed wild animals in part because of this trope.
- Somewhere an Ornithologist Is Crying: The artist of the (pictured) cover is decent at painting humans, but it's pretty obvious he had no idea what a peregrine falcon... or perhaps any raptor... is supposed to look like. In contrast to this the illustrations in the book done by Jean Craighead George herself are pretty darn accurate except perhaps for the fact that she draws Frightful in adult plumage rather than juvenile.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Not as far in the idealistic camp as other Kids Wilderness Epics due to Sam's frequent mishaps, but they're played off as humorous minor setbacks rather than costly and devastating, and the book has a very happy ending.
- Weasel Mascot: Baron.
- Xenofiction: All of the novels dealing with Frightful or her daughter.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Jesse Coon James the raccoon is initially thought to be a male raccoon, but after Sam finds out that Jesse is pregnant, he supposes that she's a "girl Jesse" instead.