My Side of the Mountain begins with a diary entry by Sam Gribley, which he writes while he is holed up inside a tree in the Catskill Mountains during a blizzard. He claims that he is snug and safe. When the entry ends, a slightly older Sam explains that before that blizzard arrived he worked for months building his house in the tree, learning to make fires, collecting stores of food, and so on. When winter arrived he had plenty of supplies, but he was still scared. Luckily he stayed safe and warm through the storm. When it was over, he knew he had made the right choice when he ran away from his crowded New York apartment to live in the woods.
At this point in the story, the focus shifts back to the beginning of Sam’s experience. It is May when he leaves New York with “a penknife, a ball of chord, an ax, and $40” as well as a flint and steel for making fires. He has told his father that he plans to find his great-grandfather’s farm in the Catskill Mountains and live there. His father says that every boy should try some such adventure at least once in his life. He wishes Sam good luck but clearly expects him to be home by morning.
Sam rides trains and hitchhikes to the mountains, ending his day’s journey in a dense wood that looks just like the wilderness home he has imagined. He manages to catch some fish, but he cannot get a fire going. He spends a cold, hungry night under the trees. In the morning he finds a house and asks the man who lives there to cook up his fish. The man hears Sam’s plans and helps him learn to make a fire. Like Sam’s father, however, the man clearly thinks Sam will give up his grand plan in a day or two.
With a full belly and an ability to make fires, Sam hitchhikes to the town of Delhi and asks the librarian, Miss Turner, to help him figure out where the Gribley farm is located. Miss Turner looks up the information and draws Sam some maps. When she asks what he is up to, he explains his plans. She believes him, but she does not try to stop him. She invites him to come back for information if he ever needs it.
Following Miss Turner’s maps, Sam finds his great-grandfather’s land. For the next few days, he catches fish for his meals as he surveys the territory, making himself a diagram of apple trees, hickory trees, and other resources he will use later. He finds a stand of huge hemlocks and decides to make a home inside the partially rotted trunk of...
(The entire section is 2514 words.)
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My Side of the Mountain is an adventure story of self-reliance and survival. Sam Gribley, a young boy from New York, longs to live by himself on his great-grandfather's land in the Catskill Mountains. He hides out in the woods for an entire year, eating food he finds in the wilds, building his own shelter inside a tree, tanning the deerskin for his clothes, coping with snow and ice storms, and evading the curiosity of outsiders. This is a convincing story, complete with detailed instructions for a large variety of survival skills such as starting a fire without matches, making salt, boiling water in a leaf, and preserving food.
My Side of the Mountain is a story of the close relationship between a boy and the animals in his environment. During the course of the year, Sam carefully trains a baby falcon to hunt and learns that wild raccoons and weasels can provide valuable companionship and protection. He also learns why feeding wild animals can be dangerous, finds that nuthatch birds make good barometers, and discovers why a bird's feet don't freeze in the winter.
(The entire section is 185 words.)