When I was at the tender young age of eight, a child who’d just been advanced a grade and feeling out of place, a book was recommended to me. It was My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. The story of a young man who runs away from home to live in the woods, it changed my life forever.
A 1960 recipient of the Newberry Medal, My Side describes the ways in which young Sam Gribley, a twelve-year-old who tires of the city life, survives on the abandoned farm of his great-grandfather. Living in a hollowed-out oak tree, young Sam trains a falcon and lives off the land for a year before finally being joined by his family who also eschew the life of a cramped apartment.
My Side opened my eyes to a whole new world; one in which a disenfranchised, neglected young man was free to make his own way. A world where one wasn’t a slave to society, but rather was able to escape the modern world and return to a life of simplicity and sustenance. This book entered my life at a turbulent time. My grandfather had just passed away, I was found to be a “gifted” child, and I had lost all my friends upon being advanced a grade in school. I was tired of life already, and I wasn’t even ten. My Side showed me that I didn’t have to live in that world. I was free to escape into a land where I was in charge and no others were to be seen. From this book was spawned a love of gardening, a love of reading, and a love of being an independent, free-thinking individual. My Side of the Mountain changed my life and made me the adult I am today.