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Wolves At My Gate

I worked two jobs the summer before my fourth year of university. It was the first summer since I was fifteen that I didn’t spend working at or attending a summer camp. I was twenty-one and living off campus in a perfect apartment with my best girlfriends. It was a killer summer.

One of the jobs I worked was as a sales clerk at Eastern Mountain Sports. I had no experience, either in sales (my previous retail experience consisted of two weeks spent peddling lotion [read: noxious fumes] at Bath & Body Works) or in outdoor pursuits. But I sure loved the idea of outdoor pursuits, and so was hired likely due to my enthusiasm and suitable level of intelligence. After a while my boss seemed to notice I had no skill for selling stuff, being, as I was and still am, inclined to save people money. My favourite day was when my boss handed me a step ladder and told me to have at the floor-to-ceiling wall of performance socks.

One busy Saturday I made my most (and only) memorable sale. A man came in and wandered to the couple of bookshelves we had. Stocked with hiking guides, maps, and Jon Krakauer books, these shelves tended to gain the attention of people who either knew exactly what they were looking for or were drawn in by the breathtaking cover photographs. I approached the man because he seemed to be looking for a specific book, but he also looked confused.

He told me his niece loves wolves, and he wanted to buy her a book about wolves for her birthday. We didn’t have books about wolves, per se, but given their nature as woodsy animals, I could understand his thinking he’d find one in our store. He told me his niece was nine-years-old. That was all I needed to hear. I took him by the wrist and led him to the mall entrance of the store, pointed him across the way to the bookstore. “When I was nine years old,” I told him, “I was thoroughly enthralled by a book called ‘Julie of the Wolves,’ by Jean Craighead George. If your niece loves wolves, she’ll love this book.” The relief on the man’s face was tangible and his smile was contagious.

I went home fantasizing about his niece’s reaction to her present. She’d feel through the wrapping paper that it was a book and she’d be disappointed. Bored already, she’d rip off the paper, and the title of the book would intrigue her. She’d flip it over and read the back, flash a smile at her uncle, and run to her room. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make the fantasy not switch to my own experience at this point. Once in her room, she’d turn out the light, grab a flashlight, and read the book in bed under the faux tent of her blankets. For a few days, she’d be Julie with the wolves, and she’d always love her uncle for the perfect gift.

What was your favourite book when you were around nine years old?

Julie of the Wolves (HarperClassics) Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George


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rating: 5 of 5 stars
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plainsight

Thanks for the tip–I know an 8 1/2-year old who will probably love this!

smartgrrrl

Easy: Wind in the Door. I loved that book more than Wrinkle in Time, actually.

kpwerker

You know, come to think of it, I might have been younger than 9 when I read
Julie of the Wolves. I'm pretty sure the books I loved so much when I was 9
were Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and for sure A Wrinkle in Time.

smartgrrrl

Oh! And The Phantom Tollbooth, though that might have been later.

Megan

I loved Island of the Blue Dolphins, about the girl whose village left her all alone for a year and she had to survive by herself. Parts of that story found its way into most of the imagination-games my sister and I created long after I read the last page.

Amy J.

Duuuude, I LOVED that book! I'd definitely have to say around nine I was enthralled w/the Madeline L'Engle books (Wrinkle in Time, etc., Austin family series, other books about the O'Keefe's) and anything by L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon). I can't wait for my girls to read these too!

marikka

I'm going to confess without shame (because I used to feel shame at this confession) that I was thoroughly uninterested in books when I was between the picture book stage and the age of 12 (when I discovered the new Nancy Drew books, and every attempt at the old Nancy Drews was pathetic). I think nine-year-old me was enthralled with My Little Ponies and the Barbie motorhome we got at a garage sale. Plus, my research reveals that I was also likely about to watch The Princess Bride, Harry and the Hendersons, Mannequin, and Labyrinth on video, and Babette's Feast was about to win an Academy Award for best foreign film, so my movie obsession and moderate Danish pride was about to emerge. Aside from Mannequin, I'm not ashamed of that movie obsession.

kpwerker

You know, I've never read Anne of Green Gables. I need to remedy that.

kpwerker

When I was in grade 4, my teacher had us on a pretty ambitious reading regimen. It might have been three books a month. Or one book a month. I can't remember. But I do remember hating reading before that, and loving reading by the end. It was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator that did it for me. (Somehow I managed to read a biography of Donna Summer that year. I was totally bored by the entire book. Why would I have chosen such a thing?)

kpwerker

When I was in grade 4, my teacher had us on a pretty ambitious reading
regimen. It might have been three books a month. Or one book a month. I
can't remember. But I do remember hating reading before that, and loving
reading by the end. It was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator that did it
for me. (Somehow I managed to read a biography of Donna Summer that year. I
was totally bored by the entire book. Why would I have chosen such a thing?)

kristi

Favorite reads around here: The seven-year old likes Encyclopedia Brown books, Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl for read-alouds. My ten-year old is the real reader, though. Her first real book love was the Little House series. She also likes contemporary children's author, Andrew Clements. Currently she's re-reading the Harry Potters. She refuses to read Wrinkle in Time (even though I told her she'd like it and that I myself refused to read it until I found a hardback copy in the school library because I didn't like the cover on the paperback. [True! isn't there a saying about that?] Phantom Tollbooth is a great favorite around here too. As an added bit of blog tie-in, The ten-year old is the one wearing the Float Away scarf on the PDF. I think she must have been pretty freshly turned 9 in that photo. I'll look for Julie of the Wolves.

kpwerker

Best blog tie-in ever, Kristi. :)

kristi

Favorite reads around here: The seven-year old likes Encyclopedia Brown books, Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl for read-alouds. My ten-year old is the real reader, though. Her first real book love was the Little House series. She also likes contemporary children's author, Andrew Clements. Currently she's re-reading the Harry Potters. She refuses to read Wrinkle in Time (even though I told her she'd like it and that I myself refused to read it until I found a hardback copy in the school library because I didn't like the cover on the paperback. [True! isn't there a saying about that?] Phantom Tollbooth is a great favorite around here too. As an added bit of blog tie-in, The ten-year old is the one wearing the Float Away scarf on the PDF. I think she must have been pretty freshly turned 9 in that photo. I'll look for Julie of the Wolves.

Joe B. Hewitt

Coincidentally, Wolves at my Gate is the title of a poem I wrote many years ago. If you’d like to see it, email me hewittjoe_marona@msn.com.

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