Meet Julie

Published in 2007; author Megan McDonald; illustrators Robert Hunt, Susan McAliley, and George Sebok


Nine-year-old Julie Albright and her fifteen-year-old sister Tracy are in the middle of a huge upheaval in their lives: their parents are getting divorced (scandalous in 1974) and they're moving to an apartment a few miles away to downtown San Francisco, to live with their mom. The new apartment is above their mom's store, where she sells handmade items she creates out of used things, like backpacks made from worn jeans. They'll visit their dad, an airline pilot, on weekends at their old house, so Julie will still be able to see her best friend Ivy Ling, although she'll no longer attend the same school. She also has to leave her pet rabbit, Nutmeg, at her father's (Ivy will take care of Nutmeg when Julie's dad is flying). 

School starts right after Julie moves, and she has some trouble fitting in. Tracy does what she can to help, showing Julie memory tricks for the new things she has to learn. And Julie soon makes a friend, T. J., a boy in her class with whom she bonds over basketball. Julie also gains some respect when her mom fills in her for dad on Career Day (her dad had to cover for a sick pilot) and impresses Julie's classmates with the fact that she owns her own business. Julie decides to try out for the school team (in the fall? Basketball's usually a winter sport.) although her dad is worried about Julie playing with boys, who might be too rough on her. Before Julie's dad can worry any more, the walking stereotype-of-a-chauvinist coach (seriously, his name's Mr. Manley) decides he can ignore Title IX and not let Julie even try out for the boys' team (no girls' team). Julie's determined to be allowed a chance at the team, but doesn't know how to get it.

Then she's inspired by a friend of her mom's, a Vietnam veteran named Hank, who's gather signatures for a petition to reopen a veteran's center. Julie makes her own petition over the weekend and goes out with Ivy collecting signatures. But Ivy soon gets bored of the activity, wanting to do something fun with Julie instead. Both girls think the other is being selfish, and they fight, leaving on bad terms. Julie gets angry at the divorce itself, for causing so many problems. But she's still determined to get one hundred fifty signatures. It takes until Thursday morning on the way to school but she makes it. However, Coach Manley just crumples up the papers and tossed them in the trash. Julie and T. J. fish the petition out later, and Julie nervously shows it to the strict principal, Mr. Sanchez. To Julie's relief, he's on her side. He can't promise the school board will agree, but he'll try to help Julie. In the end, the school board votes that it doesn't have the funds for a girls' basketball team, but in order to comply with Title IX, Julie will be allowed to try out for the boys' team. Julie's excited for the chance, and tries hard not let her disappointment that she can't tell Ivy or her dad in person sour her good news.

Looking Back

The historical section largely about Title IX (said "Title Nine"). It was added to an education amendment in 1972 and forbade sex discrimination. Initially it was understood to mandate that men and women could have an equal chance to get into STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and medicine), but soon another facet of it was more widely understood: girls and women needed to have the same access to sports as boys and men. While making sports more accessible to women and girls is a good thing, it's easy to argue that allowing them access to higher education is more important. However, when people talk about Title IX today, they often only think about the sports aspect. Recently another part of Title IX has been getting press; Title IX demands that colleges prevent sexual harassment and assault. I had figured that was part of obeying the law in general, but it falls Title IX in that it would create an unwelcome environment based on one's sex. My husband works for a college and there's been a lot going on with that. (Fortunately his campus sees relatively few violent crimes, and the police are a few blocks away if things get out of hand.)


This book is dedicated to Richard.

It's totally a coincidence that I'm reading the Julie books in July. But I like the coincidence!

Interesting. My mom's parents divorced a little before this book is set. My nana was very artistic, like Julie's mom, and my granddad wasn't a pilot, but was in the Air Force. My mom said there were only two children of divorced parents in her grade, including her.

Julie's teacher introduces herself as Ms. Hunter, not Miss or Mrs., because she considers her marital status to be private. I don't mind going by Mrs. myself, but I detest having things addressed to Mrs. Husband's Full Name. I am not ever changing my first name, and I haven't actually changed my last name either; I just go by it socially.

The book mentions trying to switch to the metric system. I think I could, with practice, get used to it for the most part. We used the metric system for a lot of things in sports. Temperature would take some getting used to. Weight would be the hardest for me; I bake a lot and am very used to tablespoons and ounces and cups. But my measuring implements all also have the metric markings.

I don't see anything wrong with Julie's dad pointing out that playing on a competitive team will be different than casual pick-up games, and even being concerned about whether the boys will pick on Julie. But of course it's best to see if his worries have any basis in fact before making a decision.

I disagree with Julie and Tracy: tuna noodle casserole is not a real dinner. It's too gross for that.

An interesting holdover from Title IX is seen in track and field in Washington state high schools. It used to be that girls couldn't compete in pole vault (until the late 1990s; I competed in it 2001-2003 and won a medal at the state competition, first time a girl from my school had in any event). To ensure that girls had the same number of events as boys, an extra relay race was added, the 4x200m. However, despite pole vault being available to girls for over a decade and a half, the 4x200 relay is still competed, so girls have one more event than boys.


Card Catalog said...

Wow, I haven't even thought about tuna casserole in forever. Although the look on my husband's face if I made it might be priceless.

SJSiff said...

But you'd have to make tuna casserole... ;)