• Happy birthday Jack Gantos (Joey Pigza series, Rotten Ralph series).
  • It’s the birth date of Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993), the first African-American to serve on United States Supreme Court. Read A Picture Book of Thurgood Marshall by David A. Adler, illustrated by Robert Casilla.
  • In 1698 the steam engine is patented in England. Read Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton.
  • In 1777, Vermont becomes first American territory to abolish slavery. Read Alec’s Primer by Mildred Pitts Walter, illustrated by Larry Johnson.
  • Aviator Amelia Earhart disappears over Pacific Ocean on this day in 1937. Read Night Flight by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor, Amelia Earhart: The Legend of the Lost Aviator by Shelley Tanaka, illustrated by David Craig, and Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.
  • In 1997, the U.S. Air Force reports on the “Roswell Incident,” stating it was life-sized dummies, not aliens from a UFO, witnesses saw in 1947. However, it is still World UFO Day.

Today marks the birthday of  Jean Craighead George. In a life filled with travel and adventure, she wrote two beloved classics—My Side of the Mountain and Julie of the Wolves—and scores of other great books.

Admittedly, her family gave her a good start. As she wrote, “I was lured into natural history by my father.” He took Jean and her two brothers, who both became distinguished scientists, into the wilderness outside of Washington, D.C., and taught them the names of plants and animals. For Jean Craighead George exploring the natural world was exciting and a lot of fun: “Each day is filled with excitement. I watch a pond or a tree or a rain forest, talk to scientists, observe my parrot, and listen to my children and grandchildren. After that writing comes easy.”

In the fifties she began to work on a manuscript that combined her love of the natural world with an experience from childhood. She once declared that she was going to run away from home—but returned forty minutes later. In My Side of the Mountain Jean’s alter ego, Sam Gribley actually manages to run away from his family. Sam makes a new home for himself in a hemlock tree hollow in the Catskills. Slowly he develops his survival skills, even learning how to make delicious acorn pancakes. For a companion Sam captures and trains a peregrine falcon, Frightful. As he makes insightful observations about the world he now lives in, Sam creates a life of freedom and joy.

At first Jean’s publisher balked at the idea of the novel. They were afraid that it might encourage young readers to flee their families for the nearest hemlock tree. However, when the book was finally released in 1959, it merely caused children to read the novel, cover to cover, because of the satisfying story. Because of Sam’s resilience and ingenuity, he remains one of the best-remembered children’s book characters of the twentieth century.

My Side of the Mountain encouraged many to pursue careers in environmental studies. As Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote in Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book, “My Side of the Mountain has inspired countless children, as it did me, to take up ecological stewardship in their adult years.”

Jean died in May of 2012, and so many readers expressed sadness for her loss but gratitude for what she had created. She brought so much joy to children and influenced so many lives.

Here’s a passage from My Side of the Mountain:

I tried to whistle for Frightful, but couldn’t purse my shaking lips tight enough to get out anything but

pfffff. So I grabbed her by the hide straps that are attached to her legs and we dove through the deerskin door into my room in the tree.I put Frightful on the bedpost, and curled up in a ball on the bed. I thought about New York and the noise and the lights and how a snowstorm always seemed very friendly there. I Thought about our apartment, too. At that moment it seemed bright and lighted and warm. I had to keep saying to myself: There were eleven of us in it! Dad, Mother, four sisters, four brothers, and me. And not one of us liked it, except perhaps little Nina, who was too young to know. Dad didn’t like it even a little bit. He had been a sailor once, but when I was born, he gave up the sea and worked on the docks in New York. Dad didn’t like the land. He liked the sea, wet and big and endless.


Originally posted July 2, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Animals, Survival
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for My Side of the Mountain


  1. lisa b.h. says:

    I did not read this book as a child yet as I read the review it appears to be truly “ageless”, perhaps I will read it now as a “midlife” reader!
    The day in history facts are fascinating, how timely that today is the anniversary of the steam shovel’s patent, after Anita’s presentation on V.L. Burton in our class yesterday!

  2. I was so thankful that Jean Craighead George was willing to share a birthday memory on my blog:

  3. suzi w. says:

    This is one of my mother’s favorite books. I’ll have to share this with her.

  4. Rebecca says:

    It’s funny that the publisher balked at the idea in fear for what it might inspire kids to do; I read this book in 4th grade and it was so powerful to me that I DID in fact consider running away, but I knew I didn’t have the resourcefulness of Sam. Instead, I settled for many an afternoon spent in a backyard treehouse, pretending to be him!!!

  5. Mary says:

    How funny! I just reorganized my classroom library and pulled that title out to take home and be sure to read this summer. It is one of those books I have never read. Now I am more excited than ever to dig in. Thanks!

  6. Shutta Crum says:

    An important book for me as I was growing up…I once was fortunate enough to attend a luncheon with her. When I told her how much I’d loved this book a a child she responded: “Of course! Every twelve-year old believes he, or she, was born into the wrong family and longs to run away!” It’s a MUST READ. If you missed it in your youth–you NEED to catch up now!

  7. G. Perry says:

    Got it coming from the library, and about time.

    Don’t know how I missed this one last time round.

    And I love these back stories. Can’t get enough.

  8. Amy says:

    I liked that book when I read it. I have The Missing’ Gator of Gumbo Limbo on my summer reading shelf.

  9. K.C. Comet says:

    We used The Tarantula in My Purse as a Reading Olympic book. It was very well received and inspired many of the students to read My Side of the Mountain. Tarantula did exactly what a book is supposed to do, entertain, inspire and encourage. I know I want a pet crow for myself! I’m so glad the students had an opportunity to read these two wonderful books. Thanks for sharing.

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