When I was a young girl, I read My Side of the Mountain, and it instantly became one of my favorite books. I wanted to be Sam Gribley, a fifteen-year-old boy who lives alone in a tree in the Catskill Mountains. He learns to live off the land, and he captures and raises a peregrine falcon, named Frightful, to help him hunt. He also becomes friends with The Baron, a weasel, learns the ways of other forest animals, and meets some interesting people, too.
I knew I had to read this book to my eldest son, who is 10 years old, and I hoped he would like it as much as I did. He did. And to my delight, while we were reading it, I discovered that its author, Jean Craighead George, wrote two sequels to My Side of the Mountain. The second book, On the Far Side of the Mountain, is about when Sam’s younger sister, Alice, joins him on the mountain, making a home of her own in a nearby tree. But Sam is devastated when a so-called conservation officer confiscates Frightful, and then to make life more complicated for him, his sister disappears. Most of this book is about Sam’s quest to find Alice and the danger that he and a friend encounter when they finally get close to finding her.
What I love about this second book is that it deals with the issue of capturing wild birds of prey, which is against the law, yet it also tells us that it’s possible to become a legal falconer. This theme of conservation is carried further into the third book, which has become my favorite in this trilogy. Frightful’s Mountain is written entirely from the falcon’s perspective, and she is now a free bird. Since Sam raised her, however, she has a lot of challenges to overcome, if she wants to become an independent falcon that will raise offspring of her own. With Sam’s help, and with the help of other people who love peregrine falcons, she slowly makes her way back into the wild.
I was not surprised to see that My Side of the Mountain was a Newberry Honor Book. It is definitely a classic. This trilogy, also, is a must read for anyone who loves nature, particularly birds. That’s probably why my son and I loved it so much. ;)
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.