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February 14, 2008

Frightful’s Mountain

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Frightful’s Mountain

Author: George, Jean Craighead

Page Length: 258

Reading Level: 4th 


REVIEW & PLOT SUMMARY: Frightful’s Mountain is the third book in the Sam Gribley series.  It begins where On the Far Side of the Mountain ends, with Sam’s Peregrine Falcon, Frightful, in the clutches of two poachers.  Throughout the story we watch Frightful evolve from a tame bird, to one finally in touch with her natural instincts. 


After escaping from the poachers, Frightful is forced to survive on her own.  It becomes clear that her life with Sam has left her unprepared for the realities of a falcon’s life.  She doesn’t know how to hunt, she doesn’t understand how to be a mother, and she isn’t even familiar with how and when to migrate. 


As Frightful searches for her home in Sam’s tree house, she encounters another falcon, Chup, who has lost his mate.  She bonds with him and he leads her to his aerie where three chicks await them.  Because Frightful was taken from her nest at such a young age, she is unfamiliar with her maternal responsibilities.  Luckily Chup takes up the slack, and Frightful walks away from the experience a little wiser.


When Frightful fails to migrate with her mate and chicks in the fall, she struggles to deal with the harshness of a New York winter.  Eventually, she is electrocuted by a telephone wire, and is rescued by a loving falconer and his wife.  They help speed Frightful’s recovery, then use her to educate local schools about the dangers of telephone poles to birds of prey.  This sparks a local campaign to save the endangered falcons.


Throughout the book Frightful finds Sam.  He misses his bird, but knows that he cannot keep her, as he is not a licensed falconer.  He worries that she may be so imprinted upon him that she will not be able to survive on her own.


The next spring Frightful mates with a new falcon and makes her own aerie on a local bridge.  It seems last spring’s adoption has taught her just enough about motherhood.  Unfortunately, the state begins repairs on the bridge where she is nesting.  The children of the community, including Sam Gribley, try to halt the work in an attempt to save the baby falcons, or eyases.  Their efforts prove fruitless.


Ultimately, the same poachers who kidnapped Frightful steal two of the eyases.  Sam discovers the theft and moves Frightful and her remaining eyas to a perch near his tree house.  The poachers are eventually caught; the eyases are raised by falconers, and eventually set free.


In the end, a community is brought together by its love for falcons, Frightful finally migrates with the rest of her kind, and Sam is relieved by the knowledge that his bird is able to survive on her own.


In my opinion, this was the best of the Sam Gribley books.  I feel Jean Craighead George did a great job of portraying Frightful’s thoughts and actions in a realistic way.   Though many of the human characters are one-dimensional, the story moves along rather quickly.  Each chapter poses a new problem and solution for Frightful.  This is a great book for animal and nature lovers.  I found that my male students last year really related to the idea of living on their own in the wilderness. 


AREAS FOR TEACHING: Frightful’s Mountain relays a great deal of facts about falcon’s, (how and what they eat, where they migrate, how they’re trained, how many exist in the wild, etc.) so this is also a great book for students who enjoy stockpiling trivial data.




REVIEWED BY: Jennifer John


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