My First Summer in the Sierra Critical Essays

John Muir


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

My First Summer in the Sierra was not intended solely for young readers. Yet it works very well as a biography for young people because of the enthusiastic tone and almost childlike wonder evident in Muir’s experiences and observations. Although the book says nothing about the significant contributions that Muir made to the preservation of the wilderness, it is quite obvious by the end of the book that he intended to make it his life’s work. In the author’s ardent phrases, the reader can glimpse the emergence of the fervent idealism that became the driving force behind Muir’s lifelong mission to save the California forests from destruction. It is also clear that his momentous summer in the mountains helped him to discover more about himself and about what was most important to him. A young reader can easily identify with such an experience.

Although Muir’s joy seems childlike, it should be noted that he was a scientist at heart. Flowery praises of members of the nonhuman world are juxtaposed with carefully recorded data about their appearance, locale, and habits. The young reader can observe in the book a fine example of the scientific process; Muir observes, theorizes, and records data to support theories, such as his theory that glacial action formed the Sierra range.

Muir consistently combines data with imaginative descriptions. Careful observations about poison oak, for example, are recorded along with the cheerful insert that “many a charming flower leans confidingly on it for protection and...

(The entire section is 632 words.)