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In this true story, Donn Fendler is a twelve-year-old boy in 1939. He is on an expedition to climb Mt. Katahdin, at 5268 feet the highest peak in the state of Maine, with his father, brothers Tom and Ryan, and guide Henry Condon. Henry and Donn run ahead and meet another climber, Charles Austin, minister with the Church of All Nations in New York City, NY. Donn gets cold and decides to find his own way back to camp rather than wait for the rest. Henry cautions him against doing so and remains with Mr. Austin, but Donn leaves anyway. Unfortunately, a thick, fast-moving fog obscures the path. Donn falls down an embankment that hides him from sight. Then he takes a wrong turn that leaves him alone to wander aimlessly for nine days in the empty mountain wilderness. Will he make it to his camp or be found by the others?
This book is Donn's own description of his struggles to survive after being separated from his companions, as told to Joseph B. Egan. For years I saw it advertised in the Christian Book Distributors catalogue and finally decided to purchase it to read as a family read aloud. With no food and no shelter, Donn survives by remembering his Boy Scout skills and by drawing on his faith in himself, his family, and God. His shoes and then his feet were cut to shreds on the rough stone outcroppings. He was tormented by insects, encountered a bear, and tumbled in an icy river. His "dungarees" were impossible to walk in, once wet, and he lost them. He suffered from cold, hunger, loneliness, and hallucinations. Toward the end of his ordeal Donn followed telephone wires and a stream, hoping that both would eventually lead him to what civilization there was in the great woods of Maine.
Donn's harrowing story, as told to Joseph Burke Egan, who was an author and I think a journalist, apparently was first published later in 1939 and has been a beloved family and school classic in Maine since that time. Through the years, Fendler himself visited schools and libraries to share his experiences, and generations of Maine children have learned lessons about courage, faith, and will from Lost on a Mountain in Maine. I especially like the way in which Donn emphasizes the fact that he put his trust in God and said his prayers daily for God's protection and deliverance. In 2008, Donn's story wes retold for a graphic novel. I guess that this all right for a generation that doesn't want to read words, except for a few in a cartoon bubble every now and then, bur prefers just to look at pictures. However, we really enjoyed the original and thought it quite exciting.