We recently finished our first read-loud for 2014. I picked this one because it had been languishing on my Kindle for a while and I thought it would tie in nicely with the cold, winter weather. Little did I know how much a book about life in the Arctic Circle would fit with our current temps! Ha!
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George is a fantastic book. It tells the story of Julie, a 13 year old girl who is trying to stay alive in the Arctic after she has run away from her husband. (Yes, husband.) Julie was raised by her father, Kapugen, after the death of her mother, and lived alone with him until an aunt and the government come and tell them that Julie must go to school. Julie goes to live with her aunt and later receives word that her father is lost at sea after hunting. Plans had been put in place before her father's death that if Julie was not happy living with her aunt and going to school, she could decide to be married to the son of her father's close friend. This decision is made, but it turns out to be an unfortunate one for Julie. Shortly after her marriage, she runs away and is bound for the coast of Alaska where she can catch a boat and get to San Francisco where her pen pal Amy lives. This is what keeps her going as she is living during the long Alaskan winter in a hut that she has constructed out of skins when it is dark for 24-hours a day. She survives using knowledge her Eskimo father taught her and through befriending and becoming part of a wolf pack. She is able to develop relationships with the pack - specifically the leader Amaroq and one of the pups, Kapu - and learns in her fumbling way to communicate with them.
This book is a treasure trove of information on arctic animal life, weather, and the lifestyle of the Eskimo. I could have easily made this a huge unit study for the girls and we could have done a ton of research and additional reading from picture and non-fiction books to supplement this. Most reading times had lots of interruptions as we discussed what different animals in the books were, why Julie did what she did when she cleaned animals for food, breaking to look at our map and find where Alaska and San Francisco were in relation to each other. And all this doesn't even touch on the time that Julie spent living in close proximity to a wolf pack which the book goes into great detail on.
A note of forewarning: there was one section of the book that I deliberately skipped over involving Julie's marriage. She moves to live with her new "in-law's" and the book described the alcoholic abusive nature of her new father-in-law and eventually, her new husband's abuse of her. I'll leave the description at that. We skipped completely over this part of the story, only reading the parts about what life was like for Julie as she lived in a small Alaskan town. These are issues that I'm not ready to tackle with my girls and it was easy to move seamlessly back to where Julie lived with the wolves without losing any of the story.
Minus that one section which I'd encourage the parent to make their own judgment whether or not to share with their kids, I highly recommend this book. The animal life, flora and fauna of the Arctic, and Julie's determination to survive and thrive in these conditions make this an excellent read-aloud and discussion book.
I'll leave you with a very cool picture that my Dad emailed me last week! He and my mom (newly retired) were wandering their way across the U.S., headed towards Yellowstone National Park for some winter photography. He snapped this photo in South Dakota (I believe) and we were so excited that it arrived right as we were reading this cool book on wolves. Alas, it is a coyote ... but still a cool shot. : )
For more great read-alouds, visit my friend Amy at Hope is the Word. I'm linking up with her!