Remembering a Newbery Award Winner

Between the ages of about 8 & 11, one of my fondest daydreams was about running away & living in a tree in the woods somewhere. Not a treehouse, but actually inside of a tree, one that I had hollowed out & turned into a snug hideaway. I’d make friends with rabbits, squirrels, & foxes (conveniently ignoring the fact that the last would most likely eat the first two), & live off the land. After all, if Sam Gribley did it, I could too!

If you read My Side of the Mountain, you’d recognize where my daydream came from. The book, written, in 1959, was one of author Jean Craighead George’s most widely known, with her Newbery Medal-winning book, Julie of the Wolves (1972), almost as well known. George passed away earlier this year at 92. In an interview with School Library Journal two years ago, she said that she wanted to be remembered as “…somebody who talked about nature, who awakened them [her readers] to a new world and helped them restore it.”

George’s interest in the natural world started at a young age, as her father was an entomologist who took her & her brothers (who both became wildlife scientists and conservationists) on numerous field trips. During her adult life George kept multiple animals at her home in Chappaqua, NY, including crows, owls, & beavers. George’s son, himself a wildlife biologist, pointed out that growing up around all the animals taught him that “they all have their own personalities. It makes you realize they’re not programmed automatons.” Harry Potter’s Hedwig and the other animals at Hogwarts would surely agree.

–Sherry Rhodes, Reference and Instruction Librarian at Milne Library

Click here for a list of George’s books