Like most young Eskimos living in Alaska, Miyax is caught between two worlds. On the one hand she is Miyax, a girl who speaks Yupick and lives in an Eskimo village. But Miyax has another name: Julie, and she also speaks English, the language of the gussaks, and her pen pal Amy, who lives far below the Arctic circle in a place called San Francisco.
When Miyax runs away from her arranged marriage, and her angry husband Daniel, she has a plan. She will use her knowledge of the traditional Eskimo life to hike across the North Slopes of Alaska to Point Hope, where a ship called the North Star could take her to San Francisco and her pen pal Amy.
But a week later Miyax is completely lost in the vast wilderness. There are no roads to guide her, and she is miles from her destination, lost in a place where there are no distinguishing features to guide her. Miyax knows that she could wander in circles for weeks until she slowly starves to death.
There is little food in the Arctic wilderness. Even the animals of prey are starving, because the land is between animal seasons. The lemmings have come and gone, but the caribou have not yet arrived.
When Miyax finds a small wolf pack she knows that it is her only chance of survival. Years ago her father told her of a time when he had been in a similar predicament. He befriended a wolf pack until he was accepted as a member of it. The wolves then brought him food until he was able to care for himself.
And so Miyax begins working on a plan to win the wolves over. As she studies the complex interactions of the wolf pack, she learns to read their mannerisms. As she forms an important bond with the pack of Arctic wolves and their puppies Miyax begins to see the depth of wisdom and sustainability in the ancient Eskimo ways. The wolves help Miyax, and she in turn also helps them. Eventually they help her to find her way to the edge of the barren wilderness, where man’s realm begins.
As Miyax approaches the border of the wilderness that she has come to love, she must make a decision about her life. Does she really want to go to San Francisco to live a new life as Julie? Or does she want to be Miyax, living the traditional Eskimo way of life?
“Julie of the Wolves,” by Jean Craighead George is an amazingly powerful story. I loved the descriptions of the Arctic weather and landscape. As in all of Jean Craighead George’s ecological stories, the balancing of man and nature is expounded upon in great detail, showing innovative ways that humans can interact with nature.
Just as in Jean Craighead George’s “My Side of the Mountain,” Miyax learns to live in the wild using natural ways of harvesting food from the wilderness. I enjoyed the descriptions of traditional Eskimo ways.
“Julie of the Wolves” is one of those books that really impresses me with the scope of natural living, and the beauty of our planet and the animals that live on it. I feel that “Julie of the Wolves” was definitely worthy of its Newbery Award Medal.
Every reader should experience this powerful story of the Arctic, its animals, and one girl’s interaction with both.
Inkweaver Book Rating: