Jean Craighead George
Washington, DC, US
Chappaqua, NY, US
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in a family of naturalists, Jean George centered her life around writing and nature. She attended Pennsylvania State University, graduating with degrees in English and science. In the 1940s she was a member of the White House press corps and a reporter for The Washington Post. Ms. George, who wrote over 60 books — among them My Side of the Mountain, a 1960 Newbery Honor Book, and its 1990 sequel — On the Far Side of the Mountain — loved to hike, canoe, and make sourdough pancakes. In 1991, Ms. George became the first winner of the School Library Media Section of the New York Library Association's Knickerbocker Award for Juvenile Literature, which was presented to her for the “consistent superior quality” of her work.
Her inspiration for the Newbery Medal-winning Julie of the Wolves evolved from two specific events during a summer she spent studying wolves and tundra at the Arctic Research Laboratory of Barrow, Alaska: “One was a small girl walking the vast and lonesome tundra outside of Barrow; the other was a magnificent alpha male wolf, leader of the pack in Denali National Park. . . . They haunted me for a year or more, as did the words of one of the scientists at the lab: 'If there ever was any doubt in my mind that a man could live with the wolves, it is gone now. The wolves are truly gentlemen, highly social and affectionate.'”
The mother of three children, Jean George was a grandmother who joyfully read to her grandchildren since the time they were born. Over the years Jean George kept 173 pets, not including dogs and cats, in her home in Chappaqua, New York. “Most of these wild animals depart in autumn when the sun changes their behavior and they feel the urge to migrate or go off alone. While they are with us, however, they become characters in my books, articles, and stories.”