Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Realistic Fiction
Reading level: 11-13 year olds
Interest level: grades 6-8

Julie’s mother is dead. Her father becomes a recluse at seal camp, living the Inuit way until her aunt came to take her to live with her and go to school. At 13, she is given the choice to stay with her unfriendly aunt, or go marry her father’s friend’s son. She boards 3 planes and flies to Barrow, at the top of the world. Here, she marries the son, thinking he will be a brother to her, and begins doing work for the mother. The son turns out to be mentally deficient and, after being teased, rapes Julie. Julie decides in one moment that she will work her way to San Francisco where her pen pal, Amy, lives. Soon, however, she becomes lost in the tundra and must rely on a pack of wolves for her survival.

I am surprised that I was never given this book to read as a child. My mother grew up Native on an island in Alaska. Many of the words used are familiar to me. I enjoyed this book. It is well written and an interesting story. I was hesitant to suggest it to my son because of the rape scene. I went back and re-read the scene and discovered that it didn’t describe a rape scene, it just suggested it. You can tell that he intends to hurt her and that she is upset after, but the actuality is skipped over. I was more perplexed by the refusal by Julie to re-join society. But, as my friend who still lives in St. Paul, AK says after a visit to Anchorage, “I had to get back. It is too easy there.” Maybe after living with wolves, that is how Julie feels.

Julie of the Wolves is a Newbery Medal winner.

George, J. C., & Schoenherr, J. (1972). Julie of the wolves. New York, New York: Harper & Row.