Walk Two Moons: Ready, Set...Weep
by Sharon Creech

Book Title: Walk Two Moons

Author: Sharon Creech

Book Type: Young Adult Novel

I would prescribe this book for this kind of child: A mourning child or a child who has experienced significant loss

I think this book is a: classic of children's literature

Review: Bibliotherapy is the use of literature for the purpose of healing. A child with problems can feel less alone in the world by reading about another child with similar problems.

Walk Two Moons would be excellent therapy for a child who has experienced serious loss or abandonment. It would offer a valuable learning experience, as well, for children who have had an easier time of it. If your child's empathy meter has been running a little low, Walk Two Moons should provide a heck of a boost!

But beware: there is very real sadness in this book. The kind of sadness we parents try sometimes to keep from our children. Review continues.

three book covers

Walk Two Moons refers to the Native American saying, "Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins." It's a weighty endoresement of empathy.

So is the book.

Salamanca Hiddle
is our narrator, a thirteen year old girl. A little over a year ago, Sal's mom left Sal and her dad, with little explanation.

Mom hasn't returned, and Sal struggles with that. So does her dad.

They've recently moved from rural Kentucky to small-town Ohio. It was Dad's decision, stemming from a belief that, for he and Sal to move on, they needed to leave the place where Mom's presence was still felt so strongly.

Sal is a strong kid and has endured the move well, but she still defines herself largely by her mother's abandonment. She makes friends with a schoolmate neighbor, Phoebe. Phoebe is one high-strung thirteen year old, and Sal spends a great deal of time at her house. This enables her to avoid her father, who has taken to spending a lot of his time with a neighbor woman.

Sal has naturally negative feelings toward this woman she sees as a usurper of the affections her father should be reserving for her mother.

Sal is an impressively observant child,
touchingly empathic and sensitive, and growing into a strong sense of self-awareness as well. (All of which is to say, she is a wonderful role model for any child.)

Sal wonders whether she'd been blind to a similar sadness in her own mother - whether, wrapped up in her twelve year old self, she'd been blind to the signs in the same way Phoebe's family clearly is.

As she spends time with Phoebe's family, she senses a sadness in Phoebe's mother.

Sure enough, Phoebe's mom leaves.
Phoebe can't fathom that she would flee voluntarily and so imagines a kidnapping, and indeed there are enough clues scattered about that Walk Two Moons could label itself a mystery, though it is much more than that.

Bearing such close witness to the fracture in Phoebe's family is, on some level, precisely what Sal needs in her own life. It's bibliotherapy, only she's actually living it, and managing to be there for her friend as well.

Sal learns to walk two moons in a whole lot of different moccasins.

Sharon Creech
tells the story in a mature, rich, textured fashion. Sal is on a cross-country road trip with her rather zany grandparents, hot on the trail of postcards Sal's mother sent back as she set out on her own journey. As they drive, Sal soothes her own sense of urgency by telling her grandparents the story of Phoebe.

Her grandparents enjoy the story, much as they clearly love their granddaughter, but the telling is clearly something Sal is doing for herself. This is a girl who intuits at a young age a great deal about self-healing, one more reason she could serve any child - or adult, for that matter - as an excellent role model.

And so the two stories of mother-loss weave together (two for the price of one bibliotherapy) in a fashion that never feels forced. Woven in too are the first (age-appropriate) feelings of young love, as well as a nice subplot about writing journals at school.

Sharon Creech is a writer who knows how to bring it all together, and she even manages to do it with humor.
It could probably be said that a few too many plot elements rely on coincidence, but during the reading this didn't bother me at all, and I can't imagine it would faze younger readers.

It should be noted that Walk Two Moons won the Newbery Medal in 1995, the highest honor for American children's books. Deservedly so.

One of the more stunning things about the book is the escalation toward the end. Surprise after surprise, cathartic and true, touching and sad. (Emphasis on the sad.) Expect to read the last 50 pages or so all in one sitting. It would be practically impossible not to.

Fortunately, Ms. Creech writes enough of an epilogue (though she doesn't call it one) that the reader leaves more with a sense of hope and healing than of sadness.

Though not a lot more. Walk Two Moons is a wonderful, beautiful book. But it reminds us, unfortunately, that the world can indeed be sad for children.

More children's books about other cultures.

More Native American YA novels.

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