Newbery Review: Julie of the Wolves

Book Review: Julie of the Wolves | Newbery and Beyond

This is the winner of the 1973 Newbery Medal, and I’m very torn about it.  Julie of the Wolves, written by Jean Craighead George (winner of multiple Newbery awards), is the story of Julie, or Miyax, a young Eskimo girl who is making her way, alone, across the Alaskan tundra.  (The book uses the word Eskimo instead of the more politically correct Inuit–it is from the 70’s, after all–so in this review, I’ll use the same language as the book.)  Julie/Miyax makes friends with wolves and learns to care for herself in the wilderness, hunting, sewing, making tools, and avoiding predators by using the old Eskimo ways.  Eventually she makes it back to civilization, but things turn out very differently from what she expected.

I am so torn about this book!  Pros: Interesting insights into the old Eskimo ways.  Actually fairly interesting for a survival/animal type book.  Ambiguous ending that makes you think.  Cons: I’m not a fan of survival or animal type books.  The ambiguous ending is maybe a little too ambiguous.  Why does Julie/Miyax swing so wildly from “I love the Eskimo ways” to “I’m going to San Francisco to get away from these Eskimos” to “I’ll desert even [spoilers!] in order to keep to the Eskimo ways, and to do so I’ll go to [more spoilers]!”  Why, Julie/Miyax?  Is it because you’re from two different cultures and you can’t reconcile them yet?  Is it because you’re a prepubescent girl who overreacts to everything?  Why?

My final verdict: It’s worth a read, especially if you are a fan of either survival stories or animal stories (especially animal stories in which the animals don’t talk or act like humans).  However, I won’t be picking it up again anytime soon, and I doubt I’ll read either of the sequels.

Rating: Meh

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