UNION, Maine — What do you do if you are 12 years old, all alone, and lost in a harsh mountain wilderness?
Donn Fendler, to whom this really happened, will be featured in a special program co-sponsored by Vose Library and Union Historical Society, at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 12, at the Old Town House, Town House Road
The program is free and open to the public. Accompanying Fendler will be children’s book author Lynn Plourde of Winthrop.
For nine days in 1939, twelve-year old Donn Fendler was lost, alone in the wilderness around Mount Katahdin in northern Maine. The story of his harrowing ordeal and rescue as told in the 1939 classic, Lost on a Mountain in Maine, has captivated readers for decades and is read by most fourth graders across the state. Since Donn retired in 1990, he has traveled throughout New England telling his tale to audiences young and old.
The inspiring story reaches a new generation with Donn’s newest book, Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness, co-authored with Lynn Plourde and published in graphic novel format by Down East Books. In Lost Trail, Donn tells the story again–with added details about what happened before he was lost, after he was lost, and the search and rescue efforts. As the temperature plummeted, the wind whipped, and sleet clouds enshrouded the mountaintop, Donn is separated from his hiking party and soon realizes he’s on his own. With nothing but dungarees, a shirt and jacket to keep him warm and sneakers, which he soon loses, he struggles against the rugged terrain and relentless elements to stay alive. Traveling over seventy of the state’s harshest miles, he encounters bears and tenacious hordes of biting insects, loses a fifth of his body weight, and suffers hallucinations and total exhaustion.
“There’s no way I should have survived that 1939 run-in with Mount Katahdin . . . but, I did. I lived my own personal miracle when I was only twelve years old.” Fendler, who lives seasonally in Newport, teamed up with Winthrop children’s book author, Lynn Plourde. With more than 25 children’s books to her credit, Plourde translated Fendler’s recollections of the ordeal into an action-packed story, which she describes as “a true story more unbelievable than fiction.”
In 72 pages of illustrations, Ben Bishop of Portland brings the story to life with lively, detailed depictions of the terrain, the action, and the emotional state of young Donn. Bishop is a comic book artist, toy designer and illustrator, and author of original graphic novels.
Stephen King says of Lost Trail, “Donn Fendler’s story of survival is both terrifying and uplifting. Here is a graphic novel about a real American superhero.” A review by the New Maine Times says, “Riveting details and energetic drawings bring the heart of the story to the forefront, placing readers in the wilderness with Fendler. Lost Trail deserves a spot in everyone’s library, young and old alike, for the message it leaves in the minds of its readersthat despite bad odds, things can and do turn out right.” Lost Trail was chosen as a 2011 Lupine Honor book by the Maine Library Association and is a graphic novel finalist for the 2011 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards. Copies of Lost Trail will be available for sale and autographing.