Review: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves

Julie of the Wolves was the book that spurred my obsession with wolves when I was younger. I loved (and still love) Julie/Miyax’s interactions with the wolves, but when I compare this to Paulsen’s Brian’s Saga series, this story feels more tame. However, this story offers something deeper: a sense of self-discovery, the struggles of culture identity, and a look at Inuit culture and the scenery of the Alaskan wild.

Introduction

When thirteen-year-old Julie Edwards Miyax Kapugen starts to feel the strain in her arranged marriage and the troubles in her husband’s parents’ home, she sets off across the Alaskan wilderness to make her way to San Francisco where Amy, her pen pal, lives. As her food supplies dwindles, Miyax seeks help from a nearby wolf pack; remembering advice from her deceased father and observing how the wolves behaved around each other, Miyax slowly develops a close relationship with the alpha male, Amaroq, and the rest of the pack. However, as she ventures closer and closer to human settlements again, Miyax needs to prepare herself – and the wolves – for her return to civilization.

Discussion

Julie/Miyax is a character with whom I can really relate to, and she’s inspiring in so many ways. She’s independent, patient, and resourceful, and her reflections of the past are detailed and quite touching. I’m sure that many of us are able to relate to her experiences of feeling like an outsider and not fitting in, which make up the basis of her struggles with her own cultural identity. It’s like she’s two people – Julie to all her American friends and classmates, and Miyax to all her Eskimo ones. Julie is the one she leaves behind during her journey, and because of her background and her personality, Miyax was able to learn a lot from the wolves and from her environment.

Throughout her journey, Miyax recounts the story of her entire life. A central piece in her life has always been her father, Kapugen, and it’s interesting to see how Amaroq represents Kapugen in some way while Miyax is out in the wild. Kapugen symbolizes everything Miyax loves about her Inuit roots, and I was sad to see Miyax being torn between two cultures. It makes me wonder whether there can ever be a balance between two cultures when you have been raised in both, or if one always has to dominate. So in this sense, even though I thought the “adventure” or “survival” parts of this book weren’t as excitingly-close-to-death as other survival books, the realistic fiction part of Julie of the Wolves is beautifully done.

And the wolves are just amazing. Miyax, with her keen eyes, is able to distinguish and name them based on personalities and physical appearances. What was really appealing to me was that George described the nature of the pack and the different units of the pack in a simple and subtle manner that made it feel like I was reading a book about wolves, but that wasn’t really about wolves; this book is about the wolves, the girl, and the girl’s father, but the wolves really tie everything together.

Conclusion

This story made me fall in love with wolves – George imprinted upon me the dangerous but familial nature of these creatures, and Miyax showed me how intelligent and kind they can be. The issue of cultural identity and, just in general, belonging, is a prominent theme that is both thought-provoking and relatable, and I’m excited to see what George has in store for Miyax in the next book.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

  1. Well, you’ve inspired me to reread this book (someday… oh dear the TBR is growing!). As someone who had an imaginary pack of wolves as a child (I think I was more inspired by Chronicles of Narnia, even though those wolves seemed to be mostly bad characters??), this is probably a book I should pick up again!

    • Ahaha oops, sorry about contributing to your TBR list, Sarah! This book and Tamora Pierce’s Wolf-Speaker (which is second in The Immortals series) are my go-to books featuring friendly wolves. Friendly animals in books were basically the source of my imaginary animal friends, although I never had an imaginary wolf pack, so I’m a bit jealous! 😛

      • You know, I’ve never read anything by Tamora Pierce. Should I?? Where should I start??

        I’m pretty sure that all of my wolves were named after Narnia characters (let’s be honest; Lewis had a genius for names – Caspian? Rillian? Reepicheep?? – although I don’t remember naming a wolf after Reepicheep…). They used to be my companions when I was having adventures in the field behind our house. The fact that my favorite ‘toy’ was a bamboo stick should tell you that I had quite the active imagination! 😀 (You’d be amazed at how that stick could be a spear, staff, gun, oar, sword, anything! Tragic was the day I forgot to put it back on the porch and Dad hit it with mower! Great was the mourning!)

        • OMGOMGOMG okay so when I e-mailed you with my list of books I was going to save Tamora Pierce books for another e-mail, since I can go on and on about her books and never stop. ^^’

          I’d recommend starting with The Protector of the Small series (it’s also my favorite series by her!), but if you enjoy starting at the very beginning of a universe, Song of the Lioness and Circle of Magic are the two universes that Tammy’s written books about.

          I think I vaguely remember Reepicheep, haha. But Narnia is another series that I have to re-read, since I can’t remember what happens anymore. And wow, you were a fierce kid! (My favorite toys were always plushies, and I’d imagine myself riding horses, bears, giraffes, you name it…) I hope your dad replaced that bamboo stick!!

          • haha, well, I added the series to the list. Lately, I’ve started putting down where I found the book recommendation – from a certain blog, or a newsletter, or wherever. “Sophie” is starting to appear with a disturbing regularity!!!!

            I can’t remember if, in the email, I put down Gerald Morris’s Squire’s Tale series? I saw that the Protector of the Small series had a book called “Squire” and it made me think of it, lol. They are a hilarious and super fun retelling of the Arthurian tales, my favorite version by far. It’s a series that really builds and concludes, too – my sister and I love these books and we bawled like anything when he finally published the final installment. They are super fun, full of witty dialogue and fun characters. Love them!!!

            • Ahh, I do that too. I have a lot of “Sarah’s” on my list from all your recs in your last e-mail! 😛

              And no, I don’t think you did – added to my list! The cover is just too funny haha. Can’t wait to look for this at the library, thank you!

  2. I’ve heard great things about this book since middle school, but I still haven’t picked it up. Your review makes me want to though! I love books that have good character development.

    • Yay, I’m glad to hear that! I actually liked this book a little less than when I first read it as a kid – I don’t know if that’s because I read it after reading Gary Paulsen’s survival series or what, but I did still enjoy the cultural and character development aspects a lot.

  3. This was one of my all time favourite books growing up! Man, I really need to reread this (I had forgotten why she ended up with the wolves). Did you read any of the sequels?

    • Ooh, you should re-read it, Elizabeth! I love going back to childhood books and seeing if I still like them. I haven’t read any of the sequels yet, but they’re definitely on my list! 🙂

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