Sam Gribley is unhappy. He lives with a large family in a small New York apartment, and as the oldest child, finds himself surrounded. So, he decides to run away to the Gribley land in New York state. He’s going to settle down there and live off the land as self-sufficiently as he can.
Thinking he’ll only be gone for a few days before giving up and coming come, his father encourages him to go–to make a go of it. His father truly underestimates Sam’s persistence and ingenuity. Sam is determined, and with the kindness of a few strangers, quickly learns to take care of himself in the wild.
I noticed . . .
I noticed that this book is full of nature and natural descriptions. It’s not really my kind of thing, so I was surprised to find myself so wrapped up in Sam’s story.
I also noticed that Sam is so energetic and self-sufficient. I read this aloud to my 14-year-old daughter, and she said that if she ever decided to run away from home that she would take this book for help. I can’t imagine her staying away from home for very long though after she got more than fifteen minutes from free wi-fi. And if her iPad died, it would be a national emergency. Sam is a completely more adult and self-sufficient kind of child.
I wondered . . .
I wondered how adventure would turn out in today’s world. I immediately thought that DEFACS would be called in and the Gribley’s would lose all of their children (and I think there were eight).
I also wondered about Sam’s basic trust in the goodness of the people he meets. I don’t have that, and I realize some it is cultural. I wondered if it was a legacy of the crime wave of the 1980s and 1990s.
It reminded me of . . .
I was reminded of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. The parents in that movie seem so overwhelmed. I felt like Sam’s parents were a little overwhelmed because it’s a while before either of them even comes to check on Sam.
I also thought of The Birchbark House for its nature and outdoor living descriptions. Both Omakayas’s family and Sam have to live off the land so both books have carefully laid out descriptions of preserving meat, berry picking, and other natural activities.
I also thought of the first volumes of both The Boxcar Children and the Trixie Belden series. In both series, there are main characters who start out living on their own, without parental influence.
I thought of Hatchet, which I haven’t read for many years, because of its focus on wilderness survival.
I floss thought of Walden by Henry David Thoreau. One of Sam’s acquaintances calls hims “Thoreau.” Also, I wondered if part of his reason for living in the woods, like Thoreau, stemmed from his desire to live deliberately.
In addition to being a great book, this book was a Newberry award winner. I don’t know if the actual story is feasible in today’s world, but I believe the story itself is timeless.