This is a great “issues” book for middle graders, first published in 1972 (and reprinted many times thereafter), about a 13-year-old Eskimo girl who must learn to adjust to a reality increasingly tangled up between the old world of traditions and the new world of the gussaks, or white-faced people.
In Part I of this short book, Miyax (called Julie in English), decides to run away and stay with a pen-pal in San Francisco, but gets lost without sufficient food on the North Slope of Alaska. She comes upon a wolf pack, and in desperation, determines that her life depends on the pack accepting her and helping her survive. This is the story of how she accomplishes that goal.
In Part II, we find out how Miyax got in her present predicament, and in Part III, we learn how it is resolved.
This book has been banned in some school districts. The reason is that Julie, although only 13, has been married off to Daniel, a young Eskimo boy. Generally, these arrangements are ignored until the children grow. But Daniel is teased, and so tries to have his way with Julie. Fortunately for Julie, Daniel, who is “slow,” doesn’t actually know what to do once he has knocked Julie down, and she escapes. It is then she decides she must run away.
Aside from just a few pages, most of the book is about Julie and her attempts to become a part of a wolf pack. She observes the wolves hour after hour, and learns what different behaviors and sounds communicate. She quickly learns which wolf is the “wealthy” wolf, or the leader. (She had learned from Eskimo hunters that “the riches of life were intelligence, fearlessness, and love.”) She bravely tries to emulate what she sees and hears, so that the wolves will think she is one of them.
When she finally makes it back to “civilization,” she finds that the village of people is not so civilized after all, and that someone she idolized is also not the hero she believed him to be.
Evaluation: This heart-warming book is not as fast-paced as more recent books, but will give children a great deal to think about and discuss. I found the story charming, and liked the resilence and faith of the character of Miyax.
There are two sequels, Julie and Julie’s Wolf Pack.
Published by HarperCollins, 1972
Newbery Medal (1973)
National Book Award Finalist for Children’s Books (1973)