Posted by Chris Kelly, A Children's Book Review on February 01, 2015
Reviewed by Chris Kelly
This Newbery Honor book is a story of a boy (Sam) who goes to live alone in the Catskill Mountains of New York, learning the skills required to live in the woods. Attractive to younger readers, the book is loaded with details of finding and catching food, building shelter and observing the natural world. This idea is an attractive daydream for a schoolchild who would otherwise have to be doing chores or homework, though in reading the book he may accidentally find that reading assignments aren’t so bad, after all! Some will be captivated by the details of making a home inside the base of a tree, with cooking, sleeping and storage arrangements, or by the relationships the boy develops with the animals of the area.
The author, younger sister of famous naturalists John and Frank Craighead, is well versed in outdoor life, and creates a believable tale with rich descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors in all seasons, and credible accounts of gathering edible plants, nuts and fish for dinner. Written in the first person, the story will light a spark in the young imagination and leave the feeling that, “I could do that!” This book will ignite an appreciation of the natural world and open the door to later study of the sciences which describe it. The book is a good choice for late elementary school readers.
The sequel, On the Far Side of the Mountain, takes up where this book leaves off, if the reader wants a bit more of the tale.
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