Setting

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 365

The majority of the narrative takes place in Lugano, in the south of Switzerland, deep in the foothills of the Alps. The city of Lugano is located around a lake, with two mountains towering over it. Dinnie lives in a villa next to the school with Uncle Max and Aunt...

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The majority of the narrative takes place in Lugano, in the south of Switzerland, deep in the foothills of the Alps. The city of Lugano is located around a lake, with two mountains towering over it. Dinnie lives in a villa next to the school with Uncle Max and Aunt Sandy. Actually, as Uncle Max explains, they live "in a casa on the Via Poporino between Lugano and Montagnola in the Ticino in Switzerland in Europe on the planet Earth." From their home, Dinnie can see both Italy and Switzerland. While in Switzerland, Dinnie and the other students go on a number of trips nearby. They go skiing at St. Moritz and Andermatt in Switzerland, and the Dolomites in Italy. During the last trip they even encounter an avalanche. They also visit Herman Hesse's house, as well as Verona and Padua, the setting of Romeo and Juliet.

The school is run on an American curriculum and philosophy, but the makeup of the student body is quite diverse. While many students are American, others are from Canada, Japan, France, Norway, India, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Germany, Belgium, Spain, etc. The students (except Dinnie, who lives with her aunt and uncle) have to room with someone from a different culture as an additional learning experience. Everyone is required to take English and Italian, as well as another language of his or her choice. When they take a two week ski trip to St. Moritz, they have abbreviated class periods in the morning and skiing in the afternoon. At this school, Dinnie comments, it is actually cool to study and be involved with academic clubs and other extracurricular activities.

It is important to mention that while growing up, Dinnie lived in a number of places, often for no more than a year. Before Switzerland, she lived in Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Oregon, Texas, California, and New Mexico. She was born in Bybanks, Kentucky, and by the end of the story her family has returned to live in Bybanks, where she joins them. This is notable because all the female main characters in Creech's books have some sort of connection to the town.

Literary Qualities

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Not only do we get to read about Dinnie's experiences, but Creech also includes her dreams. Dinnie keeps a notebook listing the addresses of each of the places she has ever lived, as well as a notebook describing the dreams she has at night. Each dream in the book relates to an experience she has while awake, and appears either at the beginning of a chapter or interrupts it; some chapters have more than one and some do not have any. The dream is set off from the rest of the text in italics and with dotted lines, and each is titled "The Dreams of Domenica Santolina Doone." All of her dreams reflect her reaction to the world around her and reveal her anxieties, insecurities, and often humorous outlook on life.

As a complement to her theme of diversity in the novel, Creech strongly emphasizes sight and the eye. These symbols come from Ralph Waldo Emerson in Nature: "I become a transparent eyeball." At the beginning, as she is on her way to Switzerland, Dinnie is surrounded by a bubble, "clear enough to see through, but strong enough to keep me inside . . . I imagined pores in this bubble ball that could let in streams of things from the outside, so I could examine them and poke them back out again if I didn't like them." This is the way Dinnie imaginatively controls her world when everything around her seems overwhelming. When she first gets to Switzerland, all she can see is what is not there— her family. Then she meets Guthrie, and he tells her about the two prisoners in a jail cell who each looked out the same small window. One saw that there was a lot of dirt, and one saw that there was a lot of sky. At first, she does not understand the point of the story. As she gets to know Lila and Guthrie, she sees that Lila is the prisoner who sees a lot of dirt, who is not willing to look up and appreciate all that is around her, and Guthrie is the other prisoner.

Guthrie teaches his classmates that a transparent eyeball is seeing everything while being a part of everything. When Dinnie tries looking at the scenery in this way, she sees that other places she has been are really not much different than what she sees in Switzerland and she is able to contextualize her new experiences. Switzerland is no longer so foreign to her; however, she is not quite willing yet to give up her bubble. Dinnie even uses her abilities with a camera to capture the images of people she sees in Switzerland, people she does not even know. She realizes, after developing the pictures, that each looks like one of her family members and even enjoys similar pleasures!

As Dinnie wills herself to try new things, her vision expands and she no longer feels like a little dot amidst a great big world. She even describes her eyeballs as hurting after taking in so much around her. At one point, Guthrie and Dinnie climb to the top of Mount St. Salvatore and look out at the view. It is at this point, towards the end of the novel, that Dinnie is able to feel both like a dot and also like a transparent eyeball, a part of the world she inhabits. Guthrie, throughout the text, is a transparent eyeball, but Dinnie, like Emerson's text, becomes one. Switzerland and its people are no longer strange to her.

Language is also a motif in this text. There are the literal languages, such as English and Italian. However, more important for Dinnie is the way different people translate these languages. She looks up words in her thesaurus that describe how she feels so she can announce it to the world in Italian on a poster in her bedroom window, but is constantly corrected by her aunt and uncle for her incorrect usage of those words. However, her classmates are a little more open with their interpretations of language. Dinnie finds their translations of English often more meaningful than her own:

Plumpy seemed a better description than plump, and bloomable sounded much more interesting than possible. When [Keisuke] said running in my ears the bells, we knew exactly what he meant, and it seemed exactly the right way of saying how the St. Abbondio bells echoed in your head after they'd stopped ringing.

By accepting the "language" of her classmates, Dinnie is able to look at her own culture in a new way. Bloomability, as the book's title, means possibilities. The term, though coined by Keisuke, is actually used more by Dinnie in telling her story, and it represents not only her acceptance of the way others view the world, but also her own attitude towards the "opportunities" (that she might not initially like) that come her way. It is this trait that makes the students able to become transparent eyeballs.

Social Sensitivity

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The chapter entitled "Disaster" is perhaps the most socially sensitive of the book. The students go through a unit on Global Awareness, learning about both man-made and natural disasters. They become depressed and burdened about the current and past events around the world and want to help. They want to "do something" more than fundraising. During this unit, the kids are able to share with each other their own perspectives of history, how they were influenced by certain current events and how they felt responsible for past events. They each get to learn about history in a more personal way from their own peers instead of biased textbooks, and this opens them up to a greater understanding of other views than their own. At the end of the unit, after all the students are justifiably upset about what they have learned, Uncle Max makes a speech about how they need to learn to use the opportunities they have to help others. He encourages them to stay globally aware so that, as adults, they can make informed decisions, and to continue to learn about art, beauty, music, and laughter so they can someday change the world. The reader, vicariously experiencing this unit with Dinnie and her friends, is thus shown that other people interpret history in different ways based on their point of view in the situation, and that discussions like this with others can help bridge these gaps.

For Further Reference

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Bradburn, Frances. Review of Absolutely Normal Chaos. Booklist (October 1995): 313. Bradburn finds there is a wider readership for Creech's first novel than Walk Two Moons.

"Creech, Sharon." In Children's Literature Review, Vol. 42. Ed. Diane Telgen and Linda R. Andres. Detroit: Gale, 1997. This source includes Creech's Newbery Acceptance Speech as well as a number of reviews of Absolutely Normal Chaos and Walk Two Moons.

Cooper, Ilene. Review of Chasing Redbird. Booklist (March 1997): 1235. Cooper cites strong characterizations but overdone metaphors of trailblazing as self-discovery.

Iyer, Pico. "The Playing Fields of Hogwarts." New York Times Book Review (October 10, 1999): 39. Iyer discusses rites of passage evidenced in the English schools of the Harry Potter series.

Review of Bloomability. Publishers Weekly (July 20, 1998): 220.

"Creech, Sharon." Something about the Author, Vol. 94. Ed. Alan Hedblad. Detroit: Gale, 1998, pp.46-50. This source cites parallels between Creech's first two novels and includes comments from the author.

Trites, Roberta Seelinger. Waking Sleeping Beauty: Feminist Voices in Children's Novels. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997. Trites defines the feminist children's novel in terms of language, voice, agency, and community.

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