Newbery 1995, Walk Two Moons

Walk Two Moons
By Sharon Creech © 1994
Published by Scholastic Inc.
1995 Newbery Medal winner

Walk Two Moons is the story of 13-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle (most people call her “Sal”) and her trip across the country, from Ohio to Idaho, with her Gram and Gramps. But this is no ordinary vacation. Sal’s mother has gone to “find herself,” and Sal hopes to bring her back home. Her biggest worry is that they won’t get there in time for her mother’s birthday. Somehow, she feels that will make a difference.

Along the way, Gram asks Sal to tell a story.

“Salamanca, why don’t you entertain us?”

“What sort of thing did you have in mind?”

Gramps said, “How about a story? Spin us a yarn.”

I certainly do know heaps of stories, but I learned most of them from Gramps. Gram suggested I tell one about my mother. That I could not do. I had just reached the point where I could stop thinking about her every minute of every day.

Gramps said, “Well then, what about your friends? You got any tales to tell about them?”

Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. There was certainly a hog’s belly full of things to tell about her. “I could tell you an extensively strange story,” I warned.

“Oh, good!” Gram said. “Delicious!”

Some time after Sal’s mother left, her father decided – against Sal’s wishes – to rent out the family farm in Kentucky and move to Ohio. There, she befriended Phoebe Winterbottom, and it was Phoebe’s story that she told to Gram and Gramps – a strange story about Phoebe’s mother, her suspicious next-door neighbor, and “the lunatic.”

Throughout the telling of Phoebe’s story, Sal tells us bits of her own story, and as the miles roll by, we come to know Sal’s deepest thoughts, dreams and fears. Walk Two Moons cleverly delves into the complexities of relationships, between friends, spouses, parent and child, boy and girl, humans and their environment, all with the underlying theme of, “don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”

Sharon Creech has done a wonderful job of characterization in this book. The characters are fun and believable, each with their own human foibles and strengths. From the delightfully mischievous (and deeply in love) Gram and Gramps, to the sensitive soul that is Sal, to Phoebe Winterbottom, with her overactive imagination and drama-queen tendencies, by the end of the book you know and care about each one.

Walk Two Moons had me hooked from page one. I laughed, cried, and fell in love with the characters. Though written for children, I recommend it for readers of all ages, middle grade to adult. A great read, in just 280 pages!