Review of “Julie of the Wolves” by Jean Craighead George

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.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by HarperCollins, 1972


Newbery Medal (1973)
National Book Award Finalist for Children’s Books (1973)

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8 Responses to Review of “Julie of the Wolves” by Jean Craighead George

  1. Julie P. says:

    This is one of those books that I want to re-read. I read it as a kid but I think I might appreciate it more now than I’m all grown up. Plus, the author is a PSU grad!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jenners says:

    This is bringing back memories but they are so faint as to almost be forgotten.

  3. bermudaonion says:

    I liked this book a lot and was shocked when I discovered that it was banned.

  4. Margot says:

    This rings a bell with me too. I think the book is one my children discovered. I can see that this would have completely consumed their imaginations at the time. I’m going to see if the library has a copy and see if my kids remember.

  5. Belle says:

    I read this one when I was younger. It might very well be time for a reread!

  6. Staci says:

    I really like Craighead-George’s writing and Julie of the Wolves is a favorite of mine and I turn to her time and time again for recommendations.

  7. Lisa says:

    My middle son read this in fifth-grade and really enjoyed it. In fact, he liked it so much that he went on a Craighead George reading blitz and read everything that she had written at the time.

  8. I remember when Kathy (Bermudaonion) reviewed this … it caught my eye then, but I haven’t yet read it. I’m especially curious (maybe defiant?) because it has been banned in some places, makes me want to read it even more (such a rebel!)

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