Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Julie of the Wolves, Reissued

One of "Most Frequently Challenged" 
Kid's Classics, Now an eBook

Open Road Integrated Media has reissued Julie of the Wolves as an eBook. Were books just better in the olden days? Nah, probably not. But rereading Julie after all these years (it was first published in 1972, by Harper and Row, and was championed by one of my heroes in the book biz, editor Ursula Nordstrom), it might seem that way. In fact, Nordstrom commissioned Julie after a single brief meeting with author Jean Craighead George. In George's memory:

[Nordstrom] was bent over her desk in concentration, her gray hair grooved where her fingers had pressed. Hearing us, she turned around and her penetrating eyes met mine head on. She nodded to say she knew who I was and why I was there.
"I want to write a book," I said, "about an Eskimo girl who is lost on the Arctic tundra. She survives by communicating with a pack of wolves in their own language."
"Will it be accurate?"
"I'll write you up your contract and advance now."
George says she'd never been offered a contract before a word was written, but she went home and began Julie of the Wolves.

Scrappy Heroine Meets Arctic Wolf
The idea for the book came to George during a brief visit to Alaska, where she spotted a young girl alone on the Tundra. George also hooked up with some researchers studying wolf communication. George fairly dumps her readers into Julie's strange world (her Eskimo name is Miyax): Here's a heroine we can really get behind. Julie is just unbelievably resilient, inventive; she perseveres through scrapes that would leave most of us jibbering (or frozen to death). And she's bonded with the natural world around her in a way that ensures her survival: She can plot a course by bird-flight; make a meal of lemmings; cut up a caribou to fashion a quick sled; sew her own sleep sack; and, of course, figure out how to talk to a wolf.

Attempted Rape Knots Banners' Knickers
George: Just nip his nose
This is one of my favorite reads this year, and I hope twelve-year-old girls everywhere will download Julie onto their Kindles and Nooks (or even buy the book, which is still in print.), perhaps to mark Banned Books Week. Julie was number 32 on the ALA's most challenged book list from 1990-1999, due to a scene where Julie's mentally impaired boy-husband tries to rape her (he doesn't succeed, and from our 2011 vantage point, this scene looks pretty tame). I guess some old folks might object to this view of a wildly independent 13-year-old girl, who refuses to be paired off in an arranged marriage, and who develops a healthy dose of skepticism toward the civilized, white man's ways that are swallowing her native culture. George suggests, at book's end, that the Eskimo's way of life will be lost. Which makes this book--part anthropological study, part adventure narrative, part love story--all the more precious.

The new eBook additionally features an illustrated biography of George, and a collection of her personal photographs. Click here or here to purchase.


  1. Wow, that is really interesting! The book definitely has my interest now. :)

  2. Oh my gosh, I haven't read this book in YEARS. I'll have to re-check it out.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse