Hi! Welcome back to Newbery Pie. This week, we’re discussing Julie of the Wolves which won the 1973 Newbery medal. We’ll start things with Sara’s review.
Julie of the Wolves is divided into three parts. In the first part, we find Julie (Miyax), lost and starving in the Alaskan tundra. On her way to San Francisco to visit (live with?) her pen pal, she has run out of provisions, and must turn to a pack of wolves for help. Fortunately, Julie grew up living on the land and is able to survive until the wolves accept her into their pack. This part of the book just about put me into a coma. It was a slow start to say the very least.
Luckily, the story picks up in part II. In this section, George flashes back to the events that led up to Julie running away. We learn about her father, Kapugen leaving her so she can attend school, Julie’s marriage at thirteen, and then her flight after her husband attempts to consummate their marriage. I found myself enjoying the story and sympathizing with Julie, especially when she finds out her father dies seal hunting.
In the final part of the book, Miyax is back with the wolves. She learns the realities of life in the wolf pack, including what happens to a wolf who becomes an outsider, and the harsh reality of a confrontation with the wolves’ enemy – humans. This book could have ended like Hatchet or Island of the Blue Dolphins with a child character surviving the elements and learning how to adapt to life in the wild. I admit, I would have enjoyed the story much better had it ended that way, but George goes a different route. Julie meets two humans and finds out that Kapugen is alive. What should be the happiest moment of her life turns to be the opposite when she find out that he has turned his back on the Eskimo way of life, marrying a white woman and living in a modern house. Worst of all, she concludes that he is responsible for killing her wolf father, Amaroq. After discussions with Benji, I think maybe that George uses this new Kapugen story as a vehicle for the sequels she wrote about Julie, but to me it didn’t seem fitting based on how he was presented earlier in the book. I guess a child’s idealism of their parent has to end at some point, and that could be what George was trying to depict, but it definitely put a damper on the book for me as a reader.
I give it 3 out of 5 Newbery pies.
I first read this book 3 years ago, and loved it. I loved the Hatchet-like survival story, I loved the Eskimo culture, and I even appreciated the ending which I thought was pretty realistic as Eskimo culture was becoming Americanized back in the 70’s. One scene, though put me off this time. I remember reading it last time, though, but I didn’t take time to process the message that was being conveyed. I guess that’s why we reread books,
The scene I’m referring to is when Julie sees her reflection for the first time after living in the wilderness for months and nearly starving. Her face is thinner and less round, and she’s pleased because she thinks that she looks more like a white girl. This set off all kinds of alarms with me this time around. Was George saying that Eskimo girls all want to look like white girls, and that they should starve themselves to get there? That may have been an overreaction, and maybe I was hearing things that George wasn’t saying, but that’s what was going through my head at the time. After finishing the book, I think that maybe George was noticing and commenting on the decline of Eskimo culture. Possibly, she was lamenting it in this scene, and definitely at the end. It would have been an easy scene to take out, there’s really no reason for it being there, except to make a statement about something, and I think that’s what George was doing.
Unlike Sara, I liked part one very much. I was fascinated by the wolves and how Julie learned to communicate with them, and even get food from them. It did move a little slowly at times, but I guess it”s like having a scene in a book with a loaded pistol that is never used. It’s tough to have a fast-paced novel with wild wolves that never attack, at least not until Jello does in part three.
Honestly, I didn’t mind the ending. I thought it was powerful. Julie has this man who she idolizes and has up on a pedestal. We see that he might not have been as good of a man as Julia thinks, (one of Julia’s relatives tells her that her dad didn’t ever do anything good again after her mother died, and we find out later that he was best friends with an alcoholic bum, another man Julia admired AND he never once tried to contact Julia or keep up with what was happening in her life, until she ran away. He just gave her a way out of life with her aunt by having her become engaged to a guy he didn’t know with some serious mental health issues who later tries to rape her) but Julia doesn’t see all of that. He’s just her dad, a man she respects an admires. When she realizes that he is actually the man she despised for killing the leader of her wolf pack just for fun, she decides to go back into the wild, only to change her mind after her bird dies. She has to face her father, even though she knows what he really is now, and she has to make sense of what is happening to the Eskimo people. Their culture is fading, and their lives are changing. It kind of made me want to read Julie, the sequel. Maybe one day.
I’ll give it four our of five Newbery Pies.