These two sequels may not double the pleasure, but they're still worthy


January 20, 1995|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

Sequels can be such a tease. The more you adore the original work, the more you anticipate the sequel. And the higher your expectations, the greater your disappointment when the follow-up doesn't measure up.

* "Julie" by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor (HarperCollins, $15, 176 pages, ages 10 and up) is the sequel to "Julie of the Wolves," the 1973 Newbery Medal winner. Because I've treasured the original for more than two decades, it took me a few months to screw up the courage to read "Julie."

It's OK. It couldn't possibly match the drama of the first book, in which Julie, 13, gets lost on the tundra and survives by becoming a member of a wolfpack. That book ends with Julie joyfully finding her father's Eskimo village, only to be devastated by the discovery that it was her father who shot and killed the leader of her wolfpack. She turns to run away but decides she must stay.

"Julie" picks up there, with Julie entering her father's new life. He has married a red-haired woman from Minnesota, and he has begun a corporation with other Eskimos, raising musk oxen.

Village life is bland -- even the handsome young man who will be Julie's love interest is more earnest than intriguing -- as Ms. George paints a quaint picture. Everyone works for the good of the village; modern conveniences are accepted, but traditions have been preserved; there's not a hint of the alcoholism that has devastated so many Eskimo families in the past two decades.

The book is at its best when Julie returns to the tundra, to find her wolves and lead them away from the musk oxen herd. If they kill one of the oxen, Julie's father has told her, he must kill the wolves.

She slips back into the wolves' world effortlessly. This is when Ms. George's writing is at its best, too, filled with grace as she describes the mystery and majesty of nature.

In the end, Julie convinces her father that the Eskimos and the wolves can again live together. That accomplished, she's going to go away to school, like her suitor Peter, and they will eventually get married, return to the village and help their people learn new technology while holding fast to their culture. Let's hope there's not a sequel.

* In "Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind," Suzanne Fisher Staples accomplished several things. She gave us 12-year-old Shabanu, a heroine as bright and courageous as any in literature. She introduced us to modern Pakistan and a Muslim world that we know little about. And she did it all in a first novel that is written with strength and skill, arresting in its descriptions and its narrative.

That 1989 Newbery Honor Book is a tough act to follow, but Ms. Staples has done a terrific job with "Haveli" (Knopf, $18, 264 pages, ages 12 and up).

Shabanu, now 18, is living with her 4-year-old daughter on the estate of her husband, Rahim, 65. The arranged marriage wouldn't be so tough if Rahim's three other wives weren't so jealous and vengeful.

Shabanu longs for her independence, but she must concentrate all of her energy on protecting herself and her daughter. The injustices she faces as a woman in a Muslim society seem incredible to Western readers, though one critic said that Ms. Staples grants her female characters freedoms that would be impossible among the tribal clans of Pakistan.

I fell under Ms. Staples' spell and smelled the dust and dung of the desert, pressed my face against the cool, stone walls of ancient Lahore and kept turning the pages to follow the smart and lovely and amazing Shabanu through every mesmerizing minute.

* Signing sightings: The Baltimore County Public Library is sponsoring appearances by two authors next month. On Feb. 11, Baltimore author Jerdine Nolen will read her book "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm," at the Pikesville branch. She will speak at 1:30 p.m., and autographed copies of her book will be for sale. Free tickets are available beginning Feb. 4, by phone -- (410) 887-1234 -- or at the library, 1303 Reisterstown Road.

On Feb. 27, Walter Dean Myers ("The Mouse Rap," "Brown Angels," "The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner" and many other titles) will speak at the Woodlawn branch, starting at 7 p.m. Free tickets are available beginning Feb. 13, by phone -- (410) 887-1336 -- or at the library, 1811 Woodlawn Drive. Tickets to both appearances are bound to go fast, so order early.

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