Newbery Project #19: 1995’s Walk Two Moons

walktwomoonsRoad trip, absent mom, trying-hard dad, precocious narrator with a unique name, new home, new weird friend, maybe murder-mystery…

There are a lot of very familiar themes in Walk Two Moons but none of them are tired in Sharon Creech’s hands.

Walk Two Moons flips back and forth between the story of Salamanca on a road trip with her grandparents west to see her mother, and the story Salamanca is telling them about her and her new friend Phoebe.

It’s masterful and touching and stabs you right in the heart.

Middle grade teachers do not need me to tell them about how great this book is and how useful it is for teaching character development and theme and point of view. Most of you probably don’t either, so I’ll keep it short.

I somehow managed to not realize the actual Salamanca-mom situation the first time I read the book. In retrospect, that was pretty dumb. It’s pretty obvious. But I have a history of that. It’s important to note, though, that even when you know the ending (and the actual fate of Salamanca’s mom is not the only gut-wrenching aspect of the ending) this book packs a ridiculous emotional punch. I credit Creech’s impeccable character development and pacing. We love Sal’s grandparents as much as we love her. A lot of care is given to the adult characters in this book and it pays off. And the two-story structure and the parallels between them helps create a really rich emotional environment to live in while you read this book, allowing Creech to wallop you when she’s ready.

Despite being close to the right age for this book when it was released, I didn’t read it until I was an adult. I’m sad I missed all those years with Sal.

Would kids like it? Sure. It’s not a kiddy-kid book, but Sal is a really relatable character with a great voice and this is the right kind of sad for making kids feel mature and special.

Are there funny bits? Eh, sort of? The grandparents have a sense of and some of Phoebe’s antics are on the silly side, but it’s not FUNNY.

Do I understand why it won? Absolutely. Rich characters, beautiful description of setting, expertly-orchestrated emotional journeys. A+

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