This is not nearly as good as the first book, but I read it because I have Frightful’s Mountain on my shelf and want to have context for that one. Unfortunately, this was so dull I found myself skimming most of it. The first half of the book is mostly about Sam’s survival skills and things he’s built, complete with explanations of how they work and sketchy pictures (a compass, an oven, a plumping mill to beat acorns into flour, an outdoor firepit with grates for cooking, a smokehouse, a dam (improved by watching how beavers built, when their first attempt failed), even a saw mill! All very clever and a bit unbelievable. You have to admire the boy’s adroitness with tools and skill at building things from the guidance of library books, but honestly just reading about what he made out of what for which purpose, was kind of boring. Through all this we’re filled in with flashbacks from Sam reading his own journal, about what happened after his family showed up at the end of My Side of the Mountain. The father tried to farm on the land for a while, then realized why the original grandfather’s farm had failed, and abandoned the effort. They all left except one sister Alice, who insisted on staying with Sam.
This story really starts going somewhere, when two things happen. A conservation officer confronts him and takes Frightful, because of course it’s illegal for Sam to have an endangered peregrine falcon. He’s worried how he will get enough to eat now, without the falcon to catch game. Then Sam discovers that Alice left the treehouse he’d built for her. At first he thinks she ran away to live by herself, surviving in the wilderness alone like he did, but then he figures instead she’s playing this elaborate game of theirs- where he has to track her by clues she leaves behind. Only this time her track goes all the way across the mountain and beyond. Her clues are left in the landscape, in little notes, and in things she said to people she paused to visit, knowing Sam would stop at the same places and hear about it. She’s got a pig with her too. And Sam has a companion helping him follow her. They’re both concerned about Alice being alone, but she seems pretty resourceful. So this part of the book is all a kind of mystery- where did Alice go? what does this clue mean? and again, I didn’t really find that interesting. Except for the little details here and there about animal communication, and what the pig might have done (that the trackers notice).
The final part of the book rapidly picks up speed and tension, as Sam and his friend finally locate Alice, and also a gang of men from Arabia who are catching birds of prey to sell illegally. They get the law involved and discover what happened to Frightful. Sam has the opportunity to take a young goshawk in place of Frightful, but he decides instead the birds are best left free. It’s a bittersweet ending- but I felt- nothing. I don’t know if it’s from the choppy beginning, with so many flashbacks telling the story, or the long tracking section, with so much about map reading and using a compass- interesting to the right person I’m sure, but that wasn’t me. By the time it got to the end where something was actually happening, I was just ready to be done with the book, honestly.
Borrowed from the public library.
Is Frightful’s Mountain told from the bird’s POV? If so, I bet it will be worth slogging through this one to get to!
Yes it is. And that’s exactly my thought. I’ve always liked better her books that were more focused on the animals.