Appreciation: Writer Jean Craighead George Shared Her Love of Wild Places, Including the Arctic

Writer Jean Craighead George immersed herself in nature. Photo courtesy of Wendell Minor.

Enthralling descriptive writing that brings wild places and creatures to life is one of the things that moves us to save them. It’s what’s made writers from Thoreau to Rachel Carson to E.O. Wilson so inspiring. As a 12-year-old growing up on a Virginia farm, I found that very inspiration in the writing of Jean Craighead George.

George, who passed away recently at the age of 92, has been called one of America’s greatest nature writers for children.  Her novel “Julie of the Wolves” let me see the Arctic through the eyes of a young girl lost in the frozen landscape who survives by joining a family of wolves.

The image of Julie and her wolf pack often comes to me as I contemplate how we can save the incredible place they called home. Recently, I opened this wondrous book yet again. It had helped spark my early fascination with wild things—and with the Arctic. George forged a connection for me with a place I’ve never been, a connection that has remained vivid for decades.

And I know I’m not alone. Millions of copies of her books have reached readers around the world. This Newberry Award-winning novel is just one of more than a hundred works of fiction and nonfiction George produced over her long life.

I wish I’d had the chance to meet her—but I almost feel I have, after checking out this wonderful website. Be sure to watch the video interview about her love of the Arctic.

Nature is a family affair. Her son Craig George is an expert on the region’s bowhead whales; her daughter Twig George writes children’s books about ocean life.

I hope you’ll revisit a favorite Jean Craighead George book, or discover one for the first time. And perhaps even pass along her gift to the world by putting “Julie of the Wolves” into the hands of a young person in your life.

Please use the comments section below to let others know about a special title that has inspired your love for a wild ocean place.

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