Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Walk Two Moons is a story within a story. Salamanca Tree Hiddle entertains her unique and charming grandparents on a trip from Ohio to Idaho with the story of Phoebe Winterbottom. Sal’s story about her experiences with Phoebe is intermingled with her first-person narrative of the trip’s events. Sharon Creech presents a deeply moving story told in a simple, straightforward fashion liberally sprinkled with picturesque phrases.
Sal’s mother left their farm in Bybanks, Kentucky, in April; a short time later, they learned that she is never returning. Unable to bear the memories that the farm evoked, Sal’s father moves them to a small house in Euclid, Ohio, where he sells farm machinery and, to Sal’s resentment, spends much of his spare time with his friend Margaret Cadaver. Phoebe Winterbottom, Margaret’s next-door neighbor, soon becomes Sal’s friend and confidante. Later that year, Sal’s grandparents arrive to take her by car from Euclid to Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother is “resting peacefully.” As they begin the trip, Gram Hiddle asks Sal to entertain them with a story, so Sal spins the “extensively strange story” of Phoebe Winterbottom.
Phoebe’s very ordered life with her highly respectable family begins to change the day that a strange young man appears on their doorstep. He asks to see her mother, who has gone shopping. Phoebe, who has been warned about strangers, is convinced that he is a lunatic, and,...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
A journey through loss and grief, from childhood to adolescence, from one home to another, are represented by the setting of Walk Two Moons, but the literal setting is a journey from Ohio to Idaho. Sal's trip with her grandparents includes various stops along the way at the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Yellowstone National Park, and Coeur d'Alene. The purpose of the trip is to revisit the last travels of Sal's mom. Sal's grandparents recognize the need for Sal to experience her mother's last days through this journey. Sal has mixed emotions: she knows she must go and wants to go, and yet she dreads the finality this trip will ultimately bring.
During the trip Sal tells of her adventures with her new friend, Phoebe, her school, and her other friends. Phoebe's story is set in the town of Euclid, Ohio, where Sal and her dad have gone to live. The move for Sal's dad represents the break that he must make as he faces life without his wife. Sal does not understand the need for the move, but her reality of life without her mother comes with her trip. The trip represents the journey she must travel to accept her loss. The trip Sal's mother had taken was for the specific purpose of self-discovery. The story of Phoebe corresponds to Sal's in that Phoebe's mother's disappearance was a journey, in a sense, to find herself.
Another important aspect of the setting is the idea of trees. Sal's mother is of Native American descent and Sal...
(The entire section is 367 words.)
The humor and sensitivity in which the author reveals a young girl's search for life without her mother makes for a poignant story. Although the topic is a serious one the events surrounding the theme are told in a humorous and mysterious way. Creech's superior ability to write dialogue, combined with the pacing of the story, hold the reader captive to the end of the book. The central character, Salamanca Tree Hiddle's journey is beautifully intertwined with the other characters. These "stories within stories" provide students with an opportunity to speculate and predict how all the stories eventually tie together, and indeed they do.
The author does not directly let the reader know that Sal's mother is dead, although Sal knows her mother is dead. However, looking back over the novel it becomes obvious that Sal's mother is not just gone, but resting eternally. This may cause frustration for some readers. The frustration is overshadowed by the realistic situations Sal and her friends face as they proceed through adolescence. The relationship developed between Sal and her grandparents on the trip is heart warming. Readers will be delighted with Gram and Gramps' quirky ways and Sal's typical teenage response to these ways. Sal considered herself "locked up" with her grandparents for six days on this trip, yet her love for her eccentric grandparents is evident.
Sal's character is strong, independent and determined although she refers to herself as...
(The entire section is 408 words.)
At first the novel seems to be about living without a parent because the parent has chosen to leave the family. This is certainly the case with Mrs. Winterbottom, Phoebe' mother. However, Sal reveals her jealously that Mrs. Winterbottom did return to her family. For most of the story the reader is left to wonder why Sal's mother has left. The author gradually lets the reader in on what Sal has known all along, when Sal's mother left she never intended it to be permanent. Sal's mother has been in an accident and has not survived. Her death has perhaps been present throughout the book through subtle clues about Sal's mother absence. This approach preserves the reality of Sal's problem with believing her mother is truly not coming back.
Mrs. Winterbottom has left her family because her illegitimate son has found her. She is faced with the dilemma of wanting to know her son, revealing her imperfections and giving up her perfect mother routine. As Mrs. Winterbottom returns to her family her outward appearance, which is neither good nor bad, alerts her family to changes.
Death and loss and the resulting changes are all presented in a sensitive, non-threatening form as a natural part of life. Tolerance, acceptance and understanding of people's behavior while working through difficult situations are also powerful aspects of the novel.
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Topics for Discussion
1. Sal refers to Phoebe's story as being "like the plaster wall in our old house in Bybanks, Kentucky." Explain this statement.
2. What are the real reasons Sal goes on a trip with her grandparents?
3. Phoebe believes a lunatic has shown up at her door. Do you believe her conclusions are justified? Why or why not? What is her Mother's response to finding out about the visitor?
4. Compare Phoebe's family with Mary Lou's family. Which would you rather be around and why?
5. In Chapter 11, Sal makes observations about Mrs. Winterbottom and her family. Explain the observations. What is Sal's reaction to her observations?
6. During the trip Sal is not the only one who spins a yarn. What stories do Gramps and Gram tell? How would you describe Gram and Gramps and their relationship?
7. Throughout the novel Sal refers to her Indianness. How is this significant to the story? Why is this important to Sal? Explain your answers.
8. In the chapter, "Bravery," Sal does not view herself as brave. Explain how her opinion/definition of bravery has changed by the end of the novel.
(The entire section is 182 words.)
Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. The Winterbottoms receive messages throughout the story. Although the sender of the messages has no purpose other than fun, the messages connect to Phoebe's family. Choose one of the messages to explore its possible meanings. Include how the message connected to Phoebe's family situation. Report to the class.
2. The trip from Ohio to Idaho is essential to the story. Choose one of the sites (i.e. The Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, etc.) that Sal visited to research. Create a travel brochure for your site. Make a commercial soliciting vacationers to come to your site.
3. Sal and her mother, Sugar, are of Seneca Native American decent. Find out more about the Seneca Indians. If possible, conduct an interview with a Seneca Native American. Report your research to the class or invite the interviewee to class to speak.
4. Should Gramps have allowed Sal to drive to Lewiston alone? Have two students prepare for a debate, one student in support of Gramps' decision and one against. Research court cases where the law has been in question. Cite examples from cases, where the law has been in question.
5. Write an additional chapter to Walk Two Moons about what happens to Sal in Bybanks, Kentucky.
6. Read one of the titles from "For Further Reference". Compare your chosen book with Walk Two Moons and present a synopsis to the class.
(The entire section is 223 words.)
Creech has four other books that include adolescent heroines and heroes who are coming of age. In Absolutely Normal Chaos (1995) Mary Lou Finney, a character from Walk Two Moons, documents her summer through journal writing for her English class and in doing so reveals the emotional uproar of adolescence. Zinnia in Chasing Redbird (1997) pursues her own journey as she spends time camping alone in the Kentucky hills. Pleasing the Ghost (1996) again deals with death as a nine-year-old boy, after his father's death, begins to be visited by ghosts. Bloomability (1998) follows Domenica Santolina Doone's journey to find herself as she is suddenly shipped to an American School in Lugana, Switzerland, to live with her aunt and uncle.
(The entire section is 116 words.)
For Further Reference
Creech, Sharon, "Newbery Medal Acceptance." Boston, MA: Horn Book, (July/August, 1995). Articles feature the author's acceptance papers and related materials.
Essay in Seventh Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators. Sally Holmes Holtze, ed. New York: Wilson, 1996. The follow up edition to the sixth volume contains more than two hundred sketches of authors, illustrators, and a translator of children's books who have come to prominence since the publication of Sixth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators.
Krementz, Jill. How It Feels When a Parent Dies. New York: Knopf, 1981. Eighteen young people (7-16 years old) who have lost a parent discuss questions, fears, and grief.
Rylant, Cynthia. Missing May. New York: Orchard Books, 1992. Summer and her uncle leave their West Virginia trailer after the death of Summer's beloved aunt. Their search results in the strength to go on living after the loss of their loved one.
Something About the Author, Vol. 94. Detroit: Gale Research, 1971. The volumes feature facts and pictures about contemporary authors and illustrators of books for young people.
(The entire section is 168 words.)