Monday, April 13, 2020

Not Recommended: JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Jean Craighead George

Not Recommended: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Post by Debbie Reese

With COVID19, parents are spending more time with children who are home. I see parents talking about classics they read when they were young and reminiscing about those books. That is a problem! Many are outdated and racist. They cannot be justified as "a product of their time" because that justification assumes that everybody thought alike at that point in time--and that's just not true!

People who are misrepresented in classic or award winning books 
do not think like the white writers who misrepresented them! 

A good example is Julie of the Wolves. Way back in 2006 when I first launched this blog, I did a short post about Julie of the Wolves that linked to a review done by Martha Stackhouse. She is Inupiaq. I'm pasting that post here. It includes a link to Martha's review. Below is that post from 2006.


First published in 1972 by Harper & Row, Julie of the Wolves won the Newbery Medal in 1973. It is included on a wide range of recommended book lists. It is available in audio and video; there is a sequel to it. Numerous teacher's guide and activity books are available for teachers to use when teaching the book. This is the summary of the Julie of the Wolves (from the Library of Congress):
"While running away from home and an unwanted marriage, a thirteen year old Eskimo girl becomes lost on the North Slope of Alaska and is befriended by a wolf pack."
A few days ago on child_lit (an Internet listserv for discussion of children's books), a subscriber posted a link to a review of the book on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network webpage. The reviewer, Martha Stackhouse, is Inupiaq. She points out misrepresentations and misconceptions of Inupiaq culture, and says
 "I humbly would not recommend the book to be put on school shelves."
Spend some time on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network pages. Read Martha Stackhouse's review of Julie of the Wolves. There is much to learn on their site about this and many other popular children's books set in Alaska (i.e. Gerald McDermott's Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest).

To find the book reviews, go to Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature, and click on "Examining Alaska Children's Literature" and "Critiquing Indigenous Literature for Alaska's Children."


Update, May 11, 2020
We've recommended several terrific books you can choose that don't have problem of bias, stereotyping, misrepresentation, or appropriation. Take a look at the Best Books page. It links to lists we do at AICL and to books that the American Indian Library Association selected for its book awards.