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Lost on a Mountain in Maine

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Twelve-year-old Donn Fendler steps away from his Boy Scout troop for only a minute, but in the foggy mountains of Maine, a minute is all it takes. After hours of trying to find his way back, a nervous and tired Donn falls down an embankment, making it impossible for him to be found. One sleepless night goes by, followed by a second . . . and before Donn knows it, almost two weeks have passed, leaving him starving, scared, and delirious. With rainstorms, black bears, and his fear of being lost forever, Donn's journey is a physically, mentally, and emotionally charged story told from the point of view of the boy who lived it.  

128 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1978

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Donn Fendler

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 258 reviews
Profile Image for Wayne Walker.
858 reviews12 followers
January 14, 2012
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 with illustrations by Ben Bishop for a graphic novel entitled Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness, published by Down East Books. 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.
Profile Image for Jojo.
25 reviews2 followers
March 11, 2020
This is my second time reading this book and it's overall it is a really good book. It's about a young boy named Don who goes on a camping trip on Mt.Kahtadin. He ended up wandering away from his boy scout troops and he got lost and had to survive on his own. I would reccomend this book to anyone who likes survival stories.
Profile Image for Emily.
69 reviews
December 20, 2016
It's a good book. I don't remeber much, since I haven't read it in such a long time.
Profile Image for Scott.
1,145 reviews107 followers
September 14, 2013
Some people like disaster stories, some like romance but for me what does it is a nice survival story.

So this one takes a bunch of people out hiking - takes a kid (this is a true story about the author by the way) who leaves the summit of a mountain and misses the trail down - how does the kid survive? What does he go through when he discovers he's lost?

Good story - bad book.
I just never got the feeling that he was in trouble, I got no insight into what he was really feeling. If you read enough book reviews you'll hear "show don't tell" quite a bit and this book is the perfect example of what not to do. If I hear "wow that was dangerous" or "Christmas that was scary" one more time I'm going to lose my mind.

This is a definite pass - there are better stories with better writers out there - not terrible but not worth your time.
Profile Image for Julia Bickford.
21 reviews
January 26, 2020
I gave this book a five star because it was a really good book. If you're looking for a quick read book this is one. It was so cool reading a book about the state I live in. If you like survival books you will like this book. At some parts it had you off your chair because you wanted to know more. This author did very good at writing this book.
Profile Image for Kylie Bean.
189 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2022
Three and a half stars.

A fascinating true story of a 12 year old boy that got lost in the Maine woods on a mountain for nine days in 1939. The writing was very straight forward, basically just the facts, no fancy prose or insights here. There are black and white pictures, but nothing is labeled. I think any child interested in survival stories would love this. As an adult, this was a very quick, interesting read.
18 reviews1 follower
December 14, 2017
Personal Response
The book Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler was a great book. I actually enjoyed this book because it was easy to read, short, and told a great story. The length of the story was great. The story was still good and wasn’t choppy.

The plot of the story was about a family of four men. The men wanted to climb the biggest mountain in Maine. They all got together and were ready to climb Mount Katahdin. When they started to climb the mountain it began to sleet and got really windy. It was getting hard to see, but it didn’t slow them down. Before they knew it, they started to drift apart from each other. The main character Donn kept walking the trails of the mountain. It later began to warm up and stopped sleeting. It was warm enough to live in. Donn was on his own for a couple of days now. He was worrying about his family, but he kept his journey going. Donn was continuing the trip and living off the land. Towards the end of the book, Donn found his family and told them about his expedition.

The main character was Donn Fendler. He was twelve years old and born in 1939.
Henry and Ryan were Donn’s brothers who decided to climb the mountain. They were both older than Donn. Henry, Ryan, and their dad stuck together when Donn got lost. The book didn’t really focus on Henry and Ryan, but I felt like their relationship grew stronger because they lost their brother for a little bit. Then it talked about when they found each other.

The setting of the story happened on Mount Katahdin. The mountain was 5,268 ft above sea level making it one of the tallest mountains on the east coast. They were planning a trip to climb this 5,268 ft Mount Katahdin. The story took place in 1940, so they didn’t have much for electronics to contact people when they get lost.

Thematic Connection
The theme of this book is a little bit about how to survive on a mountain when people don’t have the resources they do at home to survive. Donn had to learn to survive on the land of the mountain. Donn did that very well in this book because he survived and made it home safely.

I would recommend this book to men of the ages 12-18. I would recommend it to them because men around this age are usually adventurous and they would be able to relate. The book was easy enough for a 12 year old to read, but it was interesting enough for an 18 year old to enjoy.
13 reviews1 follower
September 21, 2015
Personal Response: I really enjoyed reading this book because it kept me hooked and wanting to read more. It taught me how hard it would be to survive in the wild without being prepared. I have enjoyed the outdoors very much and this book was right up my alley. It was very inspirational and motivating to me. I hope to read many more books like this in the near future.

Plot: Lost on a Mountain in Maine was an exciting book about a boys adventure of surviving on a mountain for over 8 days after losing sight of his father on the summit. His father, mountain guide, and friend were hiking to the top of a mountain in Maine after he and his friend got ahead of the other two. Donn, the boy, decided to make his way back to his dad and the mountain guide could catch up. On his way down he took a wrong turn and started in the opposite direction in the dense fog. He frantically tried to yell and find his way back but he kept making himself even more lost. He decided to make home for the night under a tree once he made it to the forest. The next day he decided to cover ground and find his way back but that didn't work. All he did was swat mosquitos and get even more lost. Days and days went by and he never saw anything related to human civilization. Then one day he found an old power line, he followed it to an old cabin. Sadly, there was no one there anymore. Then more days past and he stumbled upon another cabin, but that too was deserted. Then two days later after surviving mosquitos, cuts, and bruises he came up on a cabin that looked to be occupied. An old man came running out of his cabin, but ran back inside. Donn was devastated but the man came back out and rescued him. He brought him inside and took care of him until he could return to his family.

Characterization: Donn was a kid that had a lot of guts to do what he did in his journey. Donn had a lot of determination to get to the top of the mountain before he got lost. Even when Donn got lost he never lost hope, even in the worst of times. He has a great sense of feelings, he can tell when things are not right. Donn now has a story that will be told time and time again. Donn and his story will not be forgotten.

Impacts of Setting: This survival story happened about 75 years back. This means that there wasn't any technology capable to locate and rescue Donn like there is now days. This survival journey happened on Mt. Katahdin in Maine. It is a dangerous mountain with unforgiving terrain that can get you lost and separated from human civilization in a heartbeat. That is what happened to Donn but, he survived and left an inspiring story behind.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to almost anyone over the age of 10. I think boys would like this book more because it is about the woods and survival. It was an exciting book with many unexpected twists and turns. I like books with adventure, survival, and twists and turns, so this book was just for me! It had many events that are brutal but there were some that make the reader feel peace and wanting to go out to the woods too!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
2 reviews
June 23, 2015
Ah, fourth grade required reading. I don't think I minded it too much at the time, but now I can see the faults.

The thing about this book is this: if I remember correctly, this kid is an absolute idiot. He breaks every rule of hiking.

1. Don't hike in bad weather.
Check, it's foggy when he wanders off.
2. Always stay with another person while hiking.
Or just wander ahead alone. You know. Whatever.
3. Carry a flashlight, water, and a little food.
4. If you get lost... STAY. WHERE. YOU. ARE. That way people can find you.
If he had just stayed put, they would have found him in a day or two.

Personally, I knew all of these things by age 12.

Oh, and also: he FOUND A FREAKING TRAIL at one point. And he was like, nah, I think I'll just keep going this way and see where it takes me. WHAT?
18 reviews1 follower
December 4, 2019
Personal Response:
I really enjoy the book Lost on a Mountain in Maine. One of the main reasons why I like this book is because it takes place in the outdoors. I really like books that take place in the outdoors due to the fact they are always action-packed. It makes me wonder how I can survive out in the wilderness if something ever happens to me. The book really makes me place things into my own perspective.

Plot Summary:
The book is about a true story. Donn, who is a twelve-year-old boy, lost on Mountain Katahdin. Donn starts his journey with his father, two friends, and his two brothers. They all start their trip up the mountain when Donn and his friend, Henry, go ahead of the group to reach the top first. The two boys reach the top and then they decide to wait for the other men. Donn is getting cold and he decides to leave the top of the mountain and head back to camp by himself. Donn starts his journey down the mountain. He ends up losing the trail he is taking down the mountain. He is not able to find the trail and he decides he is going to have to continue in the morning. Donn sleeps the night on the cold, wet, and dark mountain by himself. Donn is lost and he has no place to go. He looks for a camp along a creek he follows. Donn is on his own in the wilderness for nine days. He encounters many things that give him troubles. He loses his pants and shoes. Also, he sees several bears and much more. The ninth day is the day Donn finds civilization at a camp along the river. Donn reunites with his father at the camp.

There are two major things that change Donn’s character. These two things that change the most are Donn’s mental state and Donn’s physical condition. I believe the thing that changes the most about Donn is his mental state. More than likely Donn has never had to survive by himself before; therefore, Donn is put to the test when he gets lost. He is forced to think back when he was in boy scouts. He thinks about where to find food and where there is potentially civilization. Also, the fact that he has no food hurts his physical appearance. Donn is forced to hunt and scavenge for food if he wants to survive. Donn loses a lot of weight due to the fact he did not have all the food he normally obtained.

The story takes place on Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The time frame is in July of 1939. The base of the mountain was hot and sticky due to the heat from it being summertime. There are also a lot of insects around because of the heat. Near the top of the mountain, it is very hard to see because of all the snow and clouds on top. In general, Mt. Katahdin has all kinds of weather found on it.

I recommend this book to all boys in high school. It is an easy read but I think high schoolers would enjoy it more. It is a great book for boys in high school because it shows that anything can happen when someone is least expecting it. I also recommend this book to those who like books that take place in the outdoors.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,264 reviews86 followers
July 22, 2017
I downloaded a couple of audiobooks for a long drive, just the boy and I, were taking today and this was the first one I played on the way out of town. I had picked it out of what showed up among OverDrive's currently-available Juvenile audiobooks because the boy has been somewhat fixated on survival stories this summer, since he got into Gordon Korman's "Island" survival series-- he picked the first one as his SRP prize, and gobbled up the others. The "Everest" books were also well-liked. (I have been trying to get him into survival books in general, as they were a particular favorite of mine when I was young, for the last year or more, and Gordon Korman in particular over the last six months. This cannot be pointed out, because the idea that Mom, a librarian and avid reader, could be right on this matter is blasphemous.)

I enjoyed this on the drive, and my son *loves* it. He wanted to leave the beach earlier than anticipated in order to get back into the car to listen to it, and we are all now listening to it, sitting in the living room. A second read-- it's true love.

The writing is approachable for kids, but has a nice older style-- simple enough sentence structure, frequent use of things like "fellow" and "queer" and "fool," and regional terms, too-- sounding like an old neighbor or uncle's storytelling style. I was pretty impressed with the young reader; he's a natural. The overlay of sound effects underneath the narration is a very nice touch, especially, I think, for the intended age group (grades 4-8); it is used not too frequently so it's a nice addition instead of being a constant.

The boy's opinion is that it is "great." His favorite part was the leeches, or, for a direct quote, "when the bloodsuckers suck him." The news that there is a graphic novel adaptation created quite a stir.
10 reviews
March 23, 2018
I thought this book was a pretty good book but there where some parts that I didn't get. Like when he was going through the creek to get past the rocks but why didn't he jus walk the bank and not lose his shoes. The book also seems like the power lines were out in the middle of nowhere, because they never gave hint that said, Ok it's by the road. The way the author wrote it was good and was also making me want to keep reading. I was a little mad at the end because when I saw the map he basically made a half circle. So if he just went a different route he wouldn't have been out there for nine days. What was my favorite part is when one of the bears is walking to him and doesn't see or smell him because he was down wind. Over all the book was good, there was some spots that I didn't quite get as much as others but it was a good book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Amy.
32 reviews
September 16, 2019
I picked this little book up from my daughter’s curriculum. Quick read - true story about a boy and his adventure after getting separated from his group in the mountains. He was so tough & went through a lot! It was so sweet to see the little and big ways God watched over him. Upper elementary/middle grade level.
Profile Image for Tara.
87 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2022
As a mom, I was desperate to get to the end of this book. Then I bawled. My husband grew up visiting the family cabin near Katahdin and we will take our kids for the first time in a few weeks. So we read this book together as a family and they are so excited to see the mountain soon!
April 1, 2019
Lost on a Mountain in Maine is a true story. Donn Fendler goes hiking at Mountain Katahdin with his family. When they were hiking, he was separated from his family. For the next days, he struggles to find his way through and lives off of little food until someone comes to his rescue.
169 reviews2 followers
May 8, 2022
Short story but told well from the memories of the lost boy and peppered with commentary.
Profile Image for bear.hare.
345 reviews
July 19, 2022
4.5 read aloud. Perfect story for my wilderness-loving boys
16 reviews
March 28, 2018
Personal Response- I thought the biography, Lost on a Mountain in Maine, was very good. Donn Fendler, the author, did a great job on the details in this book. It showed how hard his adventure was and how tough it had been. It taught me that I need to be prepared to survive in the wild. I love the outdoors and this book had details about survival in the outdoors. The author survived in the wilderness at the age of 12 years old with nothing to eat or drink for nine days.

Plot- Donn was a 12 year old boy who was lost in the wilderness for nine days without any supplies. Donn was sick of waiting for his family on a hiking trip. He decided to find his own way back to the camp, but he ran into dense fog. This made him go off the trail and fall down a large slope cutting and scraping his body. He knew no one could hear or see him. Donn was very close to dying many times. He lost his pants and jacket when he saw a bear and fell into a creek. Donn was walking around in his underwear for eight out of the nine days he was lost. Luckily, for him he found a blanket in a old abandon cabin. However, he did not have enough energy to even carry the blanket that he found. He later saw a sack hanging from a tree and used that as a blanket. Donn found a cabin that was occupied by a man. The man brought him inside until his family was contacted.

Characterization-The main character in the book was Donn. Donn was a real person who actually went through this event, fighting for his life in the Mountains in Maine. He was a kid who never gave up even when times were almost unbearable. He was a fighting young boy who prayed to be saved everyday for hours.

Setting- This book took place in Maine on Mount Katahdin in 1939. When this story took place there was no technology like is available today, so when Donn got lost he had no way to call for help. The weather was rough with snow storms and freezing temperatures. Donn experienced some of the worst weather that a person could live through. Donn's way of describing events was well detailed. Donn talked about the dangers of the terrain and dangerous mountains. He survived and wrote this interesting book.

Theme- Never losing hope is a theme in this book. Donn described how he prayed for hours a day to be rescued. Prayer helped him to never gave up hope until he was saved.

Recommendation- I recommend this book to males over the age of 10. Boys might like it more because it talked about woods and survival. Also, the main character was a boy so males might relate to him better. It was a true story that made me stop and think that this could really happen. Anyone younger than 10 would not understand the survival techniques the author described. I gave this book a five out of five rating.
Profile Image for Gale.
1,018 reviews18 followers
June 1, 2013

In 1939 12-year old Donn Fendler became separated from his father and Scout companions while hiking on Maine's most formidable peak. This short book presents an as-told-to narrataive--reconstructed in comfortable and safe hindsight. One can imagine the anguish of his parents--contemplating variouis fates for their son during his nine-day ordeal, during which time he endured loneliness, exhaustion and starvaiton (he lost 16 pounds!) During fog and even sleet he sought his way down the unforgiving slopes haphazardly, while rangers and hundreds of volunteers scoured the craggy heights of Katahdin.

The lost youth was actually less at risk of freezing or fallngin to deep gorges once he descended below the welcome timbewrline. His rambling route when retraced on a map showd a desperate, meandering path--partly induced by his mist-obscured vision. It was only when he discovered a stream that he recalled the advice to follow a stream downhill--to another larger one. In time he found a tote road, abandonded cabins and a telegraph wire--all of which provided hope that he was approaching (recently abandoned) civilization.

This 100-page book includes an extensvie Afterword which descibes the frantic rescue efforts by adults in the outside world--accomplished in a era of comparatively minimal long-range communication. Donn's worst enemies prove the myriads of vicious flies and bugs which mercilessly attacked his scantily-protected skin. His narrative includes references to mostly peaceful encounters with widlife, spells of crying interspersed itermittent bouts of irrationality. He even spouted entrenched Scout lore when not featheirng the narrative with his moral servations on the emeregency use of other people's property. To sum up: an excellent Middle School survival tale set in simpler times, supplemented by actual b/w photos of his rescue and celebratory parade. One wonders at the list of Lessons Learned which he might have compiled in the weeks of recuperation following his ordeal on Katahdin.

(August 12, 2012. I welcome dialogue with teachers.)
208 reviews
February 1, 2018
Not the greatest read-aloud book, but worth the effort. Edit: hearing my eight-year old describing the story a month after we read it gave me a little more appreciation for the target audience.
12 reviews
September 28, 2017
In this book Donn Fendler writes about his amazing survival adventure on Mount Katahdin. It includes Suspense, Action, and mystery of whats going to happen next. Overall a good book but not my favorite. I recommend that every person that lives in Maine read this book.
Profile Image for Sheryl Dougherty.
181 reviews9 followers
October 23, 2019
It's a juvenile non-fiction, so a quick and easy read. I spent a lot of time at the base of Mt. Katahdin as a child. It was almost like my gramps was reading it to me. A powerful story of faith and survival!
Profile Image for Luann.
1,277 reviews116 followers
October 22, 2015
I recently finished reading aloud Hatchet to two of my library classes, so this book caught my attention when I came across it incorrectly shelved in the fiction section of my library. I was interested to see how this real-life story would compare to Hatchet, which feels very real. I found quite a lot of similarities:

* Donn lived on berries and was eaten up by mosquitoes, blackflies, and other flying insects.

* Donn also came across a bear eating berries who didn't disturb him.

* Donn heard a plane that he never saw and couldn't signal, which made him very upset.

* Donn tried to make a fire with sparks using supplies he found in an old cabin, but he gave up after trying unsuccessfully for just a little bit. Brian persisted until he succeeded.

I didn't enjoy the beginning of this. It felt like it began very abruptly, just as Donn leaves his friend and gets lost. I would have liked a bit more lead-in to the story. The footnotes given by Joseph Egan helped a lot in rounding out the story, but I would have preferred having them worked into the text somehow.

While reading, I kept wondering about what was happening with Donn's family as they searched for him. I enjoyed reading the afterword, where this information was given in pretty nice detail.

Overall, I found this to be a very interesting real-life story of a boy surviving on his own in the wilderness. It wasn't nearly as well-written as Hatchet, but then not too many books are.
Profile Image for Dulci.
78 reviews
February 21, 2014
My grandmother had this book on her bookshelves when I was a child and recommended it to me a number of times. Every time, I would find something else I wanted to read more and would return it to her without even opening it. Well, now I am blessed with that 1939 edition from her shelves and, whaddya know, Grandmother knew what she was talking about!

This boy's story is amazing! Nine days in the Maine wilderness with nothing, and he lives to tell about it! Surely, he is a lesson in determination and keeping your head, as he calls it. Also, this story teaches us of the power of hope. Every day, Donn just knew he would find a camp or somehow be rescued. Otherwise, as he states, he couldn't have kept going.

I really like the way this story is told, too. The word choices and verbal mannerisms are in keeping with how a 12-year-old boy would talk. Through his telling and through his actions in the book, I really get a sense for who Donn Fendler is.

The most touching part of this story to me is Donn's nightly prayers. Here he is, lost and desperate, and he prays for his parents to be okay and not to worry. I don't suppose this would have affected me if I'd read the book back when my grandmother offered it to me, but now, as a parent with sons of my own, this part makes me cry.

I highly recommend this book, and have added it to my list of required reading for my 5th grader.
4 reviews
January 18, 2014
Lost On A Mountain In Maine is the story of Donn Fendler’s (written by Joseph Egan) emergency survival situation atop one of the tallest peaks on the Appalachian; Mt. Katahdin. Donn and his family are visiting Maine on a trip that takes a turn for the worse when a storm rolls in and separates Donn from his family. Being a boy scout, Donn is able to have a slight advantage compared to other boys his age.

I admire Donn most notably for his composure in this situation but also being able to make clear and smart plans to get back to civilization. “People want to know why I didn't stay where I was. Someone was sure to find me, they say” (Fendler 28). Donn is a smart person and this excerpt shows his knowledge of the woods and how he had to get moving off the mountain in order to get recused. Most people would sit duck and die in the storm from lack of the experience that Donn has.

Joseph Egan was able to narrate the book in a way that gives the reader a connection to Donn and follow his journey. My favorite part of the book is how Donn can narrate the story to make it sound so inviting and scenic when in reality it was a hard and challenging struggle for the New York boy.

Lost On A Mountain In Maine is a good grab for anyone looking for a heartwarming story that can also teach you a few elements of survival.
Profile Image for Raechel.
436 reviews23 followers
August 6, 2016
Ever wanted to read a book that feels like it was written by a young Captain America? Well now you can! Donn Fendler was a 12-year-old Boy Scout who, as the title says, was lost on a mountain in Maine and found help 9 days later. The book is written in Fendler's voice, as he told it to Joseph B. Egan. So the strongest language in it is when Fendler exclaims "Christmas!" over some hardship. It's incredibly cute.

The book is a very fast read, which isn't surprising at all. There are roughly 1-2 chapters for each day, and it's told almost in a steam-of-consciousness format. So just imagine a 1939 12-year-old Boy Scout detailing his harrowing journey to you.

When I was young I loved books about a kid surviving in the wilderness on their own: Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, The Island Keeper, etc. If I had read this as a child I would have loved it as much as those other books. Despite the age of this one (published in 1939), if you enjoy those types of novels or know a kid who does, this would be a great addition to their library.
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