NOTE: This is a review of a previous edition of this book that was published prior to American Girl’s release of the BeForever book editions in August, 2014.
This week’s Throwback Thursday is devoted to the fourth book in a series about a 1970’s girl named Julie. In the latest book, Julie and the Eagles, our heroine manages to score a ticket to see the famous rock band The Eagles perform in concert. She is so impressed by the band that she leaves home and hits the road where she becomes the band’s most devoted groupie and they write a song about her, “Witchy Woman,” which becomes a major hit.
HA! HA! HA! Just kidding, folks. After all, Julie is portrayed as an elementary school fourth grader so there’s no legal way she could leave home and become anyone’s groupie. It’s true that The Eagles’ biggest heyday was in the 1970’s and, while one of their songs is referenced in this book, the book doesn’t talk about those Eagles. Let’s start this entry over again.
After devoting the last three Throwback Thursdays to the first three books in a series about a young girl growing up in the 1970’s, here is a review of the fourth book in the series. Like the other books, Julie and the Eagles is part of a series of historical novels put out by American Girl (yes, that’s the doll company) that focuses on growing up as a girl in the 1970’s. Since I was a young girl back in the 1970’s, I thought it would be fun to compare the books to my own memories of growing up in the 1970’s. I also figured that it could provide an idea for some light summer reading.
The one thing to keep in mind about the Julie books is that they were written for a target audience of girls between the ages 8-12. As a result there won’t be an in-depth look at certain controversial issues of the day.
The books were published in 2007 and they were written by Megan McDonald, who has written a variety of children’s books including the Judy Moody series. The book Illustrations were done by Robert Hunt, who also designed the logo of a boy fishing from a crescent moon for Dreamworks Studios.
Synopsis: Julie Albright is a young white girl with long blonde hair and brown eyes growing up in 1976 San Francisco. Her parents are divorced so she spends most of her time living with her mother, who operates her store full of handcrafted items called Gladrags, and her teenaged sister, Tracy, in a small apartment that’s located above her mother’s store. On most weekends she stays with her father, a commercial airline pilot, in the same home that the entire family lived in before the divorce. During her visits with her father, she gets a chance to spend some quality time with her pet brown rabbit, Nutmeg (who has to stay with her father because her mother’s apartment complex doesn’t allow pets), and play with her best friend who lives across the street, Ivy Ling.
The story begins in April, 1976 and Julie is reveling in spring weather while counting down the days until her 10th birthday next month. She invites Ivy to come over to her mother’s apartment so the two of them can ride bikes to Golden Gate Park where they can check out the tulips at the Conservatory of Flowers. As the girls sit down in the grass outside watching the tulips, a blue butterfly lands on Julie’s shoulder.
An old woman sees the butterfly on Julie and informs her that it’s a Mission Blue butterfly and they are getting increasingly rare compared to years ago when the old woman used to frequently see the Mission Blues.
Both the butterfly and the old woman go away so Julie and Ivy decide to buy snow cones and eat them on a park bench. While enjoying their snow cones they begin to hear noises so they looked under the azalea bush behind their bench and find a baby owl. When they fail to find a nest or the baby owl’s parents they face a dilemma. Julie can’t take the baby owl to her mother’s apartment because the landlord forbids pets while her father is away from home most of the time and can’t give the attention that a baby owl needs. Ivy can’t take the baby owl to her home because she lives with two cats who would go after the little bird. They track down the old woman who previously told the girls about the Mission Blue butterfly that landed on Julie’s shoulder and the old woman informs them that they have found a baby screech owl who don’t live in nests—they tend to live in holes in trees. The old woman urges Julie and Ivy to take the baby screech owl to the Randall Museum, which has a rescue center that tends to injured wild animals.
After arriving at the museum, Julie and Ivy deliver the baby screech owl to a volunteer who is also a college graduate student named Robin Young. Robin tells Julie and Ivy that the owl’s constant twitching and eye blinking indicates that the baby was poisoned probably while eating something that contained a pesticide like DDT, which had been banned four years earlier but the substance still shows up in the animals. Robin gets a heating pad to keep the baby owl warm while giving it water every 15 minutes and trying to get the owl to eat a mealworm. Julie asks Robin if she could visit the baby screech owl the next day and Robin says yes.
The next day after school, Julie arrives at the Randall Museum only to have Robin tell her that the baby screech owl had to be sent to the vet because she feared that it wouldn’t make it through the night. According to Robin, the vet informs her that the baby owl made it through the night, which is a good sign. It’s also the last the reader hears about the baby screech owl in this book mainly because the book isn’t titled Julie and the Screech Owl. Julie is disappointed about the news but Robin offers to have Julie meet some other birds currently in her care while living up to the title of this book.
Robin shows Julie a large cage that’s currently inhabited by a pair of bald eagles named Shasta and Sierra and the couple’s two chicks that were recently hatched. Julie is in awe of the eagles, especially since they are the symbols of the United States of America. She soon becomes concerned about the eagle family after Robin tells Julie how the museum came across the birds—the eagles were found at a construction site for a new housing development by construction workers after one of them had a broken wing while the mate stood nearby. Robin theorizes that the construction workers probably chopped down a tree where Shasta and Sierra lived. Robin tells Julie that the bald eagle is an endangered species so the museum wants to release the eagle family back into the wild. However, the museum would need to build a hack tower to help the eagles get used to living in the wild again while working with someone from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and that would cost money that the museum doesn’t have. Unless the museum raises the money, Shasta, Sierra, and their two chicks would be doomed to live the rest of their lives in a zoo. Feeling sad and outraged by that story, Julie immediately takes up the eagles’ cause by helping to organize an Earth Day fundraiser with her fourth grade classmates while raising awareness of the eagle family’s plight. She hopes that she and her school can raise enough money to build that hack tower so the eagles can get reacquainted with the wild again—just in time for Julie’s 10th birthday on May 1, 1976.
Julie’s older sister, Tracy, plays more of a minor role in this book after being such a major pill in the last one. Tracy turned 16 sometime between the last book and this one and she had apparently reconciled with her estranged father because Tracy talks to Julie about how their Dad had helped her with learning how to drive a car and, as a result, she has her gotten her driver’s license and she now expresses as big an interest in driving a car as she does in playing tennis.
The last chapter, Looking Back, deals with the environmental movement of the 1970’s including how it was influenced by Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which exposed the devastating effects that the pesticide DDT had on animals further up the food chain (like bald eagles) and how the first Earth Day was started in the U.S. in 1970. The chapter also looks at the legacy of the 1970’s environmental movement both good (the bald eagle made a comeback from near-extinction) and bad (how the discovery of the endangered spotted owl led to over 30,000 loggers in Oregon and Washington state losing their jobs in the 1990’s). It ends with a mention on how one person can make a difference in saving the environment while citing the story of a woman named Julia Butterfly Hill who spent 1997-1999 living in a 1,000 year old redwood tree to prevent Pacific Lumber Company loggers from cutting down that tree, which she nicknamed “Luna.”
Music Mentioned in This Book
“Take It to the Limit” by The Eagles
Real-Life People Mentioned
News and Other Stuff From the Era Mentioned
The Bald Eagle’s Population Decline and Recovery
The Ban on DDT
Environmental Impact Study
Give a Hoot—Don’t Pollute!
Mission Blue Butterfly as an Endangered Species
Portable Cassette Tape Recorder
Save the Whales
My Own Impressions Based on My Own Experience With the 1970’s:
I remember back in the 1970’s when the teachers in school used to talk to us kids about the importance of not polluting and planting trees every chance we get because too many trees are being chopped down and trees are needed because they breathe out the oxygen that we breathe in while we breathe out the carbon dioxide that trees breathe in. There were times of the year when the classrooms and hallways were decorated with environmental-related posters. The teachers also helped to raise awareness about endangered species, especially bald eagles because it would’ve been ironic had the bald eagle become extinct since they are the symbol of the United States. I remember there were times when we made drawings in art class on why people shouldn’t pollute.
There was a general awareness of not throwing trash on the ground and make every effort to throw it in a trashcan. That point was brought home through a series of television ads that featured a crying Native American like this one. I also remember all those Smokey the Bear ads that extolled “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”. That scene where Julie’s mother’s friend Hank was planting trees along Haight Street while wearing a “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute!” t-shirt brought back memories because I remember those Woodsy Owl ads really well.
I remember that there was hype in the media about Earth Day and the importance of not polluting but then the media ignored it once the 1980’s rolled around. It didn’t help that, when Ronald Reagan was elected, the first thing he did was remove the solar panels from the top of the White House that had been installed by Jimmy Carter. On top of it President Reagan began to emphasize the nuclear arms build up and getting involved in the internal affairs of impoverished Third World countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador in the name of “fighting communism.” (To be fair, the Soviet Union did the same thing to countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary in the name of “fighting capitalism.”) Most political activists focused on other issues while, for the most part, environmentalism took a back seat.
Environmentalism has had a resurgence in recent years ever since the publication of the best-selling book 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth in 1989. Thanks to that resurgence, there is now curbside recycling pick-up that now makes it much easier to recycle plastic, paper, and aluminum than before. (I remember a time where if you wanted to recycle these things you had to gather them together, sort them into separate bags, then haul the bags to a recycling center. The old method was inconvenient for a lot of people, especially the ones with children or who had demanding jobs.) There have been more Earth Day celebrations throughout the Baltimore-Washington, DC area since the 1990’s.
Despite the resurgence in being concerned about the environment, things have gotten worse for the planet Earth. There wasn’t any talk about climate change and global warming back in the 1970’s. Most scientists at the time felt that the big problems were people throwing trash on the ground, throwing trash in the water, and polluting the air with bad chemicals. Once people stopped doing these things, the Earth would be restored to its former natural beauty. I don’t think anyone in the scientific community had any inkling about permanent climate change caused by humans in the 1970’s because I hadn’t even heard about such things before 2000.
Despite the upbeat tone of the book’s “Looking Back” chapter about the successes of the environmental movement, there are still some challenging times ahead. There are a number of people in Congress who are convinced that climate change is a hoax. TransCanada wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport thick tar sands through the U.S. even though there are plenty of reasons why President Obama should say no to this project. Heck, the state of Oklahoma has recently passed a bill that will charge an extra fee to anyone who installs a solar panel or wind turbine on his/her own property.
Meanwhile there are still plenty of endangered animals out there, as documented on the World Wildlife Federation’s website.
Where to Buy Julie and the Eagles
The American Girl Julie Albright Books List
The Original Central Series
The Best Friend Book
The Julie Mysteries
The BeForever Books
Other Media Featuring Julie
And the Tiara Goes to…—A film short based on the Julie books.