Walk Two Moons
by Sharon Creech (1994)
An Intermediate and Middle School selection.
“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”
This familiar saying is the premise for Sharon Creech’s 1995 Newbery Medal winning Walk Two Moons. When we talk about books building empathy, this book is just what we are talking about.
Creech masterfully weaves together three separate stories, each one compelling enough to be its own novel. First, there is the story of 13-year old Salamanca Tree Hiddle who is on a road trip from Euclid, Ohio to Lewiston, Idaho with her whimsical and endearing grandparents. On the way, they visit famous landmarks like Mount Rushmore and Old Faithful. As they drive, Sal entertains Gramps and Gram with stories about her school friend, Phoebe (or Peeby as Gram calls her). That second plot line reveals the twists and turns of the life of Phoebe’s family – one that appears perfect from the outside, but not-so-perfect on the inside. The third strand in this braid tells of Sal’s life back home in Bybanks, Kentucky where she lived on a farm with her parents before her mother left for Idaho and she and her father to Ohio.
Sounds complicated, but with Creech’s beautiful descriptions and careful plotting, the lives of a wide cast of characters come together in a touching and affecting way. There is young love and the love of a couple who have shared a full life together. There is the pain of losing someone, and the pain of someone coming home. And, most of all, there is the realization that all of us are walking our own path through joy and sorrow, and that journey is easier when we all share some empathy and grace. This moving story is told in Salamanca’s spirited voice, sprinkled with blackberry memories, birdsong orchestras, chickabiddies and gooseberries, and Gram’s hearty exclamations of “Huzza! Huzza!”
A story this rich can’t be told without doses of sorrow. Teachers should be aware that this book deals with pregnancy loss, unwanted pregnancy and adoption, and the death of a parent and grandparent. Creech deals with each of these sorrows with such respect and gentle care, allowing each character to reflect. In so doing, she allows us to reflect on our own sorrows, too, with that same gentleness.
As Salamanca learns, “You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.”
Join Salamanca and her wise and fresh perspective, all wrapped up in simply stunning Sharon Creech prose. And look forward to deep and thought-provoking discussions at school and at home.