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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Eight-year-old Jonathan lives at the foot of Hemlock Mountain, which is really more of a hill. His large extended family visits often, including Uncle James, who is just a few years older than Jonathan. When Ma needs a pot to make stew for a crowd, she sends Jonathan over Hemlock Mountain to borrow one from Aunt Emma.

Jonathan packs snacks for various animals and for himself, and wonders aloud if there might be bears on Hemlock Mountain. Ma assures him there are not, and even if there were, they would be hibernating. She wants him to be back by dark. But once he’s gone, she begins to worry.

Jonathan feels lonely on the mountain, even after feeding squirrels, birds and rabbits. He continues to repeat his mother’s words about there being no bears on Hemlock Mountain. As he sees water dripping from the spring thaw, he imagines bears waking up.

At Aunt Emma’s house, Jonathan politely chats, eats cookies and falls asleep in a chair. He leaves for home without the pot and must return to Aunt Emma’s to retrieve it. His nap and forgetfulness have put him behind schedule, and he walks slowly because of the heavy iron pot. Darkness falls, and Jonathan begins hearing noises. He hides under the pot for a long time as bears stand nearby and sniff at it.

Finally, Jonathan hears his father calling, and the bears scamper back into the woods. Jonathan’s father and several uncles, including Uncle James, appear with shotguns. Jonathan assures them there are indeed bears on Hemlock Mountain. As the uncles go to hunt for bear steak, Pa carries the pot and takes Jonathan home to his worried mother. Jonathan proudly delivers the pot to Ma from his first trek over the mountain.

Christian Beliefs

One of Jonathan’s new baby cousins is being christened; all of the relatives plan to attend the ceremony.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Jonathan’s father is a big man who works hard on the farm. Jonathan’s mother often finds herself feeding a large number of relatives. Both parents worry when it is dark and Jonathan hasn’t returned from his errand. Uncle James helps Jonathan learn about animals and teaches the young boy to treat them kindly. Aunt Emma gives Jonathan cookies and loans him a pot, and several uncles aid Pa in finding Jonathan on the mountain.





Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at ThrivingFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

6 to 9


Alice Dalgliesh






Record Label



Charles Scribner’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Macmillan Publishing Company


On Video

Year Published



Newbery Honor Book, 1953


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