"Awfully little to be out there all alone." These words could easily describe Miyax (a.k.a. Julie), the star of Julie of the Wolves, who is lost in the Alaskan tundra and has to rely on wolves to survive. But they don't. They describe a young Eskimo girl whom Jean Craighead George saw out the window of a plane flying into Barrow, Alaska, and they were spoken by her son, Luke, who was sitting next to her on the flight. (Source.)
And so (drumroll please) a novel was born. George was traveling to Barrow to do some research for an article on wolves for Readers Digest. Her discoveries, combined with the fascinating people she met on that trip and the sight of that little Eskimo girl all alone on the tundra, inspired her to write Julie of the Wolves.
This book is ridiculously awesome, and we promise we're not the only ones who think so. In a review for the New York Times, critic James Houston said that the book, "is packed with expert wolf lore, its narrative beauty conveying the sweeping vastness of tundra as well as many other aspects of the Arctic, ancient and modern, animal and human" (source). Plus, it has sold over three million copies since its original publication in 1972. It's no wonder, then, that this book is taught to thousands of students in schools all over the country.
But it is a bit of a wonder that this book is actually quite controversial. It's on the ALA's list of frequently challenged books, and some people have even moved to have it banned from school curriculums. Yep, that's right: banned, along with the likes of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Giver, and To Kill a Mockingbird. It's mostly the scene in which Julie's boy-husband Daniel aggressively attacks her that's got people worked up. Many parents question whether or not the scene is age-appropriate for their youngsters.
At any rate, George has laughed the whole thing off, writing, "I'm delighted to be on the list of Banned Books. To think that I am in the company of Mark Twain, the Bible, and other giants of literature is mind blowing. What an esteemed group" (source.) How's that for a positive attitude? Plus, we'd like to point out that a Newbery Medal really speaks for itself, don't you think? If you don't believe us, just give it a read – we promise you won't be disappointed.
P.S. If you wind up loving Julie of the Wolves as much as we do, be sure to check out the sequels, Julie and Julie's Wolf Pack. Apparently, Julie of the Wolves was so darn popular that readers kept begging for more, and George gave in.
Let's play Would You Rather?. Ready? Okay.
Would you rather
Honestly, we hope these are tough questions to answer. After all, we love nature and we love our modern technology. And guess what, our girl Miyax is caught in the middle of this struggle that we're still fighting to this day: which is more important, progressing as a civilization or protecting the natural world?
No matter what you believe, it's pretty clear that human civilization has had a pretty sizeable (okay huge) impact on the earth. And the emotional narrative of Julie of the Wolves asks the question: is it worth it? So read the book, and then make the call. Is the progress of civilization worth the things we sacrifice for it? And more importantly, is there a way for the two to coexist?
Can we draw in the snow with a stick and spend our time learning about literature on Shmoop?
Jean Craighead George (Is Awesome)
The author of Julie of the Wolves has written over a hundred books for children. Take a peek at her website, where you can read about her life and works.
Alaska's Indigenous People
At the Alaskan Native Heritage Center's website, you can learn all about the different native Alaskan cultures, including the Yupik Eskimos.
Everything You Need to Know About Wolves and Then Some
This awesome website is jam packed with information about wolves, their habitats, and their outlook for the future.
An Old School Book Review
Here's the original New York Times review of Julie of the Wolves. Two thumbs up.
Let's have a chat with some wolves, shall we?
Here's the trailer for a National Geographic program called <em>A Man Among Wolves</em>. Although it's only a few minutes long, the trailer gives you a good idea of how it's possible for a human to actually talk to wolves. The program itself is also on YouTube, chopped up into segments.
A Brief Profile of Jean Craighead George
Seriously, friends, she is one cool lady. Check out this brief profile of her, put together by Open Road Media. In the video, she talks a bit about how she came to write Julie of the Wolves.
Read, then Listen
Check out the audiobook version of Julie of the Wolves. Does it do the book justice?
Make Some Noise!
Here's a compilation of a ton of different sounds wolves make, from howling, to whimpering, to barking and beyond. Cool stuff, if a little eerie.
Our Author, All Parka-ed Up
This is probably what Miyax was wearing out there in the cold, too.
Wide Open Spaces
This pic of the Alaskan tundra gives you an idea of just how easy it would be to get lost up there.
Tornait's Close Up
Here's a shot of a golden plover, so you can get a better idea of what our buddy Tornait looks like.
And here's a pic of a caribou. Those antlers look pretty darn scary.
Do you think this does Miyax justice? Is this how you pictured her?