Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m really surprised I didn’t read this book as a child. I was totally into the “kids living on their own” theme when I was in junior high. I actually wrote a book in eighth grade about a girl named Kia who escapes from her large family into a secret room in her house and then gets scurvy.

Okay, so maybe my book wasn’t exactly like this one, which is about a girl who escapes an arranged marriage by heading out onto the tundra and living on her own (with the help of a pack of wolves). But the themes of escape and self-sufficiency are in both. Well, except that my heroine wasn’t exactly self-sufficient.

Fine, my book wasn’t at all like this one, but I still think I would have liked Julie of the Wolves had I read it as a kid. My eight-year-old sure loves it, but I think she loves it more for the communicating-with-animals part (the same reason she loves Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series).

I guess I’m not sure if it would really be so easy in real life to win the trust of a wolf pack, but then I’ve not tried. It didn’t seem so far-fetched to me that it detracted from the story, though. It was all a part of Julie/Miyax’s set-apartness. I loved how everything that others saw as backward and a result of poor decision-making, Julie saw as wonderful. She was almost magical in her specialness and her self-confidence. Naturally, she chafed in the life of the city, even as she tried so hard to belong there. But then, I think Jean Craighead George painted a scene in which Eskimo culture itself was chafing in the life of the city where the compromises of the old ways proved too much to maintain a sense of self.

This story left me feeling nostalgic for the time when magical things seemed possible to me, before grown-up pragmatism and self-consciousness boxed in and tamed that sense of possibility.

Will Julie’s magic make it through her adolescence, or will she be forced to compromise it? I’m almost too afraid to read the next books to find out.

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7 comments

  1. Jenn · August 24, 2013

    My daughter (11) is focusing on Women’s History for her Social Studies unit. I think this would be a good book for her to read. Thanks for sharing!

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    • CJ · August 25, 2013

      You’re welcome! I’m not sure how historically accurate it is, but it’s one of the only books I’ve read that deals with this particular culture…or even this particular region. It made me want to go visit my friend who moved to Kotzebue, Alaska, a few years ago. It’s also a great coming-of-age story.

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      • Jenn · August 25, 2013

        I hear Alaska is beautiful. I hope to visit one day. 🙂 I just read on the Banned Books site that Julie and the Wolves is on the list for one of the most challenged books to be banned. That’s interesting.
        My daughter will definitely like a coming of age story. She enjoys reading books about girls her age.

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      • CJ · August 25, 2013

        There is a pretty intense scene between Julie and her husband that precipitates her trip across the tundra, so you might want to pre-read for that. The book also mentions menstruation, which was enough to get Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret banned, if I’m remembering correctly. That’s all I can think of that could be ban-worthy, but then, I’m not a fan of banning books, so I might not have the most careful eye for that sort of thing.

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      • Jenn · August 26, 2013

        Thank you for the heads up. I’m with you, I’m not a fan if banning books, either.

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      • CJ · August 26, 2013

        I’ve actually never met anyone who was a fan of banning books. It’s not really clear to me who’s doing this banning. (As though we can’t make decisions for ourselves about what’s appropriate to read or not.)

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      • Jenn · August 26, 2013

        Good point. Haha!

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