Monday, February 20, 2012

1973 - Julie of the Wolves

Julie of the Wolves is one of the books that all school-age children seem to have been required to read. It was written while I was in high school, so it wasn’t until my own children were in school that I heard of it. I wasn’t sure it would be my kind of book, but the magic Newbery seal brought it into my hands.
Although the girl’s name, according to the title, is Julie, for the first third of the book, we only know her as Miyax. Miyax is an Eskimo girl, about 12 years old, who lives in the northern region of Alaska with her father, a man skilled in the old Eskimo ways of living. But at first we are only given hints of Miyax’s life and the crisis that compelled her to flee and cross the tundra to civilization. At the start of the book, Miyax is lost and knows that she will starve to death if she cannot learn the ways of the nearby wolf pack and get them to accept her. As Miyax learns, so do we, about the individuality of the pack members and the relationships they have formed with each other. The girl finally becomes a sort of cub to the wolves and finds, with that acceptance, life.
Part two takes the reader back to Miyax’s former life in the hunting village of her father, Kapugen. The life Miyax has known and loved comes to an end when Kapugen is forced to send her to her aunt’s house to go to school where she also learns modern ways. Now, the Eskimo girl Miyax becomes Julie. But soon, events conspire that make her living situation intolerable. She runs away, believing that it is within her abilities to make it on her own to San Francisco to join her beloved pen pal, Amy. She packs a small amount of food and other supplies and leaves; she is now the Eskimo girl, Miyax again.
Miyax continues her struggle to cross the tundra as autumn approaches, her wolf pack always near. As she struggles on towards her destination, she is forced to consider and reconsider all she has known and been, and what riches of traditional Eskimo life she will claim for herself.
At the time my children read Julie of the Wolves, they did not like it, because it was “meaningful.” Often they preferred light-hearted, exciting books that were amusing and entertaining, but were quickly forgotten. But the books that affect you, make you think, stay in your mind, change you—those are the books that are like nourishing real food, not a fluffy dessert. That type of book marks a Newbery Award book, and that describes Julie of the Wolves.
I bought this book for under a dollar at the thrift store.


redgirl said...

I never had to read this lol

Carolyn said...

Hmm, you probably had to read something else similar, like... Bridge to Terebithia?