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Jean Craighead George's MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN is, quite simply, a masterpiece of children's literature. Almost half a century after its original publication, it is now available in this gorgeous hardcover edition, along with its two stunning sequels, ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN and FRIGHTFUL'S MOUNTAIN. Wendell Minor, illustrator of two of Ms. George's classic JULIE OF THE WOLVES books and many splendid picture books, has done the cover, and Ms. George herself did the fine line drawings for the three books. However, the true beauty of the volume lies with the words that grace its pages. In the first book, Sam is a young teenager who is tired of living in his crowded New York City apartment and steals away to the Catskill Mountains to live in seclusion among nature. There, he burns out a tree to make it his cozy home, learns about wild foods and how to find them, and captures a young peregrine falcon, Frightful, to train to hunt for him. The first book was written in the past tense from Sam's point of view, and is filled with details and entries from Sam's journal. Ms. George manages, in her usual way, to tell about and inspire readers about nature, without sentimentalizing it, and to develop young characters without underestimating them. The journal entries are written just as a kid would write them, in simple, yet interesting text. In fact, many readers have been led to believe that a thirteen-year-old boy actually did write the book. MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN won a Newbery Honor (later Ms. George was to be awarded a Newbery Medal for her truly magnificent JULIE OF THE WOLVES). The second book, ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, is written, even more effectively, in the present tense, as Sam finds his way into more exciting adventures. He still enjoys a life in the mountains--but he is no longer alone, as his sister, Alice, has joined him. This book is written more realistically and in a more modern settting. For example, peregrine falcons are an endangered species, and Frightful must be confiscated by a conservation officer. However, Sam isn't so sure that he really is a legal government worker, and, along with his friend Bando, he takes off to find his beloved feathered friend. At about the same time, Alice disappears, and Sam must find two of the things that mean the most to him. The ending is very exciting, but the sequel never loses the charming, easygoing coziness of its predecessor. In the third book, FRIGHTFUL'S MOUNTAIN, Sam is forced to let Frightful free, as it is illegal to own an endangered species. Frightful, having lived nearly her whole life and depended almost entirely on humans for her survival, faces many challenges in her life in the wild. There are natural dangers--other birds of prey, hurricanes--but the book's basic story relies on Frightful's increasing conflicts with humans. Telephone wires cause an eletrocution threat, DDT poison weakens eggs, and Frightful faces a harrowing few days trying to raise young on a New York bridge. The result of all three books has changed my way of looking at the world. I have started a journal, I dream of living away from the strange world of humankind, I want to try dandelion salad and acorn pancakes, and I constantly watch the skies for peregrine falcons soaring above (there is only one nesting pair in Georgia this year but I am paying attention to conservation efforts to help Frightful and her kind). With this beautiful special edition of three incredible books, I look forward to sharing the story of Sam Gribley and Frightful with my own children someday.