My Side of the Mountain is a tale of a boy who decides to runaway (with his parents knowledge and permission) to live off the land in the Catskill Mountains.
***If you have younger children that participate in the read alouds and need their own age-appropriate selections, click over to our corresponding Bitty Box for Blueberries for Sal!
The book(s): This complete triology book is HUGE! If you prefer smaller books, or only want one, you might buy them separately. My Side of the Mountain Trilogy: My Side of the Mountain / On the Far Side of the Mountain / Frightful’s Mountain. Both the first and third books are free audio books with Audible’s free 30-day trial.
Adding in field guides for your area would fill out your box. For a foraging focus (say that ten times fast) Berries, Nuts, and Seeds is a illustrated guide or you can go with something like Wild Food: A Complete Guide for Foragers. Or you can just use the Pocket Guide to the Outdoors by Jean George, the author, to specifically complement the book.
For further exploration, add a little Thoreau to your library. There are abundant and cheap options for a paperback version of Walden: this illustrated hardcover is enticing.
Games: Sam went to a library to learn what he needed to know, and that is a fabulous idea, but games can spark an interest that leads to more learning. For general outdoor knowledge, Marguerite and her daughter recommend Camp. If you want to get more specific at identifying species and doing animal studies, you could pick up either Animal Tracks or Bird Bingo.
Snacks: Beef (or turkey or any kind of) Jerky is an obvious choice. And you can actually buy Acorn Flour or you can harvest some acorns and make your own acorn flour for Sam’s pancakes; that would be a grand adventure! If not, you can just have the child(ren) help make some regular pancakes, and eat them with blueberry jam (bought or homemade) like Sam does. Sam meticulously records his recipes on birch bark, but don’t worry if you find them a little simple or missing steps. The Wild Food Cookbook can help you create some foraged recipes, and we love that it’s cover features an edible plant that you can probably find in your yard RIGHT NOW.
Activities: Sam passes many a nervous hour making things in his tree. He carves his silverware out of wood, but your kids can get creative with this introduction to wood carving book. If they aren’t ready for wood carving, an easier option would be soap carving. And when you go camping this summer, take along a real flint and steel for starting fires. (Just don’t wait until ten minutes before you want to be cooking dinner to try it out).
Crafts: Small children have dominated the coloring book market for ages, but recently adults have been finding their “zen” by with therapeutic coloring. But have seen educational coloring books? You can learn about Medicinal Plants and Wild Flowers, and color at the same time. We think that’s the nature equivalent of having your cake and eating it, too.
Trinkets and Toys: If you are going to allow your child(ren) to carve wood or soap, you will need a knife. Another way Sam passes the time is by playing music, thanks to Bando’s skill at making instruments. You can make a willow whistle too, following these step-by-step instructions. Or, if you’re all “ain’t nobody got time for that,” just let them play with a cheap slide whistle until it drives you bonkers and you have to hide it with your secret stash of noisy toys that you will one day regift to aunts-and-uncles-that-haven’t-had-kids-yet-and-persist-in buying-these-things. The rule in Erin’s house is that no plays the recorder in the same room she is in; it must be done elsewhere behind closed doors. That way everyone wins.
Movies: Of course there is a movie! The DVD is a bit pricey, but you can rent the movie on Amazon for $4 or buy a digital copy for much less.
Field Trips: Depending on the time of year you read this, see if you can go food harvesting! Blueberries and strawberries in the spring. Apples and pumpkins in the late fall and everything in between! Find what is local and in season and either go to a pick-your-own farm or go into the woods with a wild foods guide (see Books section) and see if you can harvest some foods.
Another of Sam’s main sources of food is fish. If you can go fishing, that would be a good field trip/activity to go along with this book. However if you could go camping, and fishing and even cook and eat your own fish? That would be an amazing and memorable way to celebrate this story!
Extra Education: If you want to do this book as a more formal lesson or a book club, you can download the free discussion questions from Scholastic. And if you are looking into Brave Writer, you can purchase a single issue of The Arrow for this book.
If you liked this book you may enjoy: In exploring this book, Marguerite and Erin realized that there have been MANY children’s books with a survival theme. If you’ve already read this or are looking for something similar, here’s a list of books that would go well with much of this box, with maybe just a bit of customization:
Hatchet, Island of Blue Dolphins, Touching Spirit Bear (for middle school, it has some rather gory scenes), Julie of the Wolves (same author as My Side of the Mountain, but a different setting and a female protagonist), and Homecoming and Boxcar Children (for urban survival).
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