‘The top of Katahdin was just ahead. We could see it through a break in the cold, misty clouds that whirled about us.’
Students in Maine are familiar with these words as nearly every middle-schooler in the state still reads ‘Lost on a Mountain in Maine,’ despite the book being nearly 40 years old.
“Donn Fendler’s ‘Lost on a Mountain in Maine’ is probably the preeminent book that gets kids, in Maine particularly, interested in being in the woods. In the adventure, the true adventure, that Fendler went through- they’re captured, and they can’t help but to want to do more, and to read more, and to learn more,” said Peggy O’Kane, the Coordinator of Digital & Special Collections at the Maine State Library.
Fendler was just twelve years old when he was separated from his family during a storm on Mount Katahdin back in 1939. He survived nine days on his own, and his experiences were later detailed in his classic children’s book released in 1978.
“What he showed us as a child, and what he continued to say to us as adults, really speaks to what it means to be a Mainer,” said O’Kane.
Despite growing up in New York, Fendler loved Maine and spent many of his summers here, touring the state and getting kids excited about reading and exploring the outdoors. One of the students he spoke with grew up in Waterville and became a close friend of Fendler. Ryan Cook had been working close with the author to adapt his true-life story into a feature a film.
“He had become like family to me. We had a very tight bond. He was the most kind, caring, considerate person you will ever come across,” said Cook.
While the movie has had its starts and stops, Cook and company plan to begin production on the film as early as next summer- finally fully realizing a vision the two shared years ago, further preserving Fendler’s legacy.
“You’re not a Mainer unless you’re born in Maine. And the only exception for that is Donn Fendler because he is a piece of Maine legacy, and through and through he is somebody who represents the spirit of Maine.”