Last night our book club had a literary treat – author Jean Craighead George’s son came and spoke to us about his mom’s book, Julie and the Wolves. Luke George, then 14, accompanied his mother on a trip to Alaska to research wolves. The trip was funded by Readers’ Digest which hired Jean to write articles for the magazine. She was often sent on trips to research locations, and while in Alaska, Jean met with scientists and observed wolves on the tundra. Luke recalls visiting a pup den, spotting the pack, and learning about wolf behavior. On one outing to the science center, Jean and Luke decided to walk back to the town across the tundra, and partway home, fog blinded their way. This became a scene in Julie of the Wolves.
When they returned from Alaska, Readers’ Digest decided not to take her article. Wondering what to do with all of her research, Jean wrote a book instead. Luke said his mom didn’t belong to any writers’ groups, or share her stories with anyone but her editor. When it came time to write, she would sit down and within three weeks, type up a manuscript! Julie and the Wolves went on to win the 1973 Newbery Medal.
What our book club enjoyed most about “Julie” was the author’s knowledge about wolf behavior, the setting details, and exposing us to the traditional Eskimo culture. And thanks to Luke’s visit, we were able to get a glimpse into how an author turned field work into an award-winning book!
Jean recently turned 90. She has published 80-plus books with her latest, The Last Polar Bear, due out in October.