Walk Two Moons

Walk Two MoonsI’ve heard wonderful things about Sharon Creech so I picked up her Newbery Award winning book Walk Two Moons. I’ll definitely try some other books of hers because people had such glowing things to say, but I didn’t particularly like this book and I certainly won’t be recommending it to my daughter—she would find it devastating, and not in the thought provoking way that can make you grow.

Sal is traveling with her grandparents, following the path her mother took when she left years ago. While they travel, she tells them the story of her friend Phoebe. Sometimes I find story-within-a-story structure compelling, but in this case I felt like it was often confusing and slowed down the plot. The stories don’t run chronologically, so you have to piece things together as you go. I found it annoying, rather than enjoying the slow reveal.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid


Wow. Lots and lots of death.

Phoebe’s neighbor’s name is Mrs. Cadaver. Yeah, like a dead body. Her husband is dead, and Phoebe thinks that Mrs. Cadaver killed him. It turns out he was killed by a drunk driver in the accident that also blinded Mrs. Cadaver’s mother.

Sal’s younger sibling was stillborn, strangled by the umbilical cord. Her mother wouldn’t stop bleeding and eventually they did an emergency hysterectomy. Her mother, who was likely already clinically depressed, got even more depressed. She left and, we find out at the very end, was killed in a horrible bus accident.

Sal’s grandmother is bitten by a water moccasin while they’re traveling. She gets sicker and sicker, then finally has a stroke and dies.

All three of Sal’s father’s brothers have died in accidents.

Questionable Situations

There are a lot of things that concern me, and they aren’t really questioned or addressed.

Sal’s friend Ben touches her even though it makes her uncomfortable. Several times they try to kiss but they keep missing. Eventually they do end up kissing which makes Sal’s grandmother really happy. There are boundary issues here that make me uncomfortable.

In the margins of her notebooks, Sal draws people she knows being hanged.

Sal smokes a peace pipe and apparently takes to it quite naturally.

Sal has been driving cars since she was 11. When her grandmother dies, Sal continues the trip by herself despite being three years underage and not having a license. She gets in an accident, although she’s not harmed. The cop seems to take all of this in stride.

Sal’s mother seems really depressed. She doesn’t feel like she can live up to the standards of her husband’s family. She doesn’t think she’s a good person. She’s never diagnosed, even in passing, and never gets any kind of treatment as far as I can tell.

The English teacher makes the kids keep a journal and then he reads from them out loud to the class. This causes all kinds of drama, which he doesn’t seem to notice until it affects him personally.

Back in their younger days, Grandma ran off with the egg man for a few days because Grandpa swore too much. Apparently they got over this ok because their marriage overall seems strong, but Grandma’s way of dealing with this doesn’t seem like a problem—it’s kind of a funny joke.

Coming to Terms with Your Culture

Sal’s name is Salamanca Tree Hiddle. Her mother also had an Indian name. She feels somewhat tied to…some culture, but she doesn’t seem clear about what it is. There are observations about Mt. Rushmore being built on sacred ground. There’s an ongoing discussion about Indian vs. Native American vs. American Indian vs. Injun—Sal thinks the whole thing is silly and prefers Indian. Sal prays to trees because it’s easier than praying to God. The title of the book comes from the saying that you shouldn’t judge someone until you walk two moons in his moccasins.

Update: I didn’t know enough to be specific about cultural issues that bothered me in this book. Here’s a link to someone who does.


Sal’s dad seems like he’s trying to be supportive of her, but he made her move even though she didn’t want to. He doesn’t explain his connection to Mrs. Cadaver, but Sal also doesn’t want to hear about it and doesn’t give him much of a chance. Her grandparents seem supportive of her, but they seem way too permissive—who lets their underage granddaughter drive unfamiliar roads by herself?

Phoebe’s family is a mess. Her mother is also obviously depressed. When Phoebe’s mother burns brownies, Phoebe screams “I’m fat!” in her face and walks away. Phoebe borders on paranoid with her conspiracy theories. Eventually Phoebe’s mother disappears. Phoebe is convinced that she’s been kidnapped or something. Unlike Sal’s mother, she returns—with a son who was born before she married Phoebe’s father. She couldn’t even talk to her family about this—she had to leave them in order to deal with it.


I didn’t like the book. I suppose there were some good reflections on guilt and coming to terms with tragedies that aren’t your fault and about the nature of life and death, but way too many problematic things came along with that, and those weren’t addressed at all. I couldn’t identify with Sal, I didn’t like Phoebe, I thought Sal’s grandparents weren’t fit guardians, and the story wasn’t compelling enough to keep me going. Like several other award winners, this book leaves me wondering what I missed that other people obviously saw.

Amazon puts the reading level and 8 and up, but I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 12—even then, it should be read with an adult and discussed, because most issues really aren’t addressed.


Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Published in 1994 by Scholastic
Winner of the 1995 Newbery Award
Read on Kindle


  1. Thank you for this timely review! My 5th grader has been reading this as assigned reading in her GT class. She has mentioned that she doesn’t really like it, but I haven’t had the time to review it for her. It is hard to keep up with all my kids’ reading! Since my daughter’s comments have been vague, your review will let me start discussing the book with her right away. I’ll also definitely be reading the book myself and hopefully have a chance to discuss it and any concerns with her teacher.

    • ayvalentine says:

      Thanks for sharing this! I’m so glad to hear about situations like this – it’s exactly why I started the site!

  2. I have now read the book myself and discussed it with my daughter and her teacher. Basically, I agree with everything you’ve said. 🙂

    The main things that stood out to me that were of concern were the romantic relationship for an 11-year-old and the graphic and terrible still-birth of the little sister. And, oh my goodness! So many people who died in such terrible accidents – it seems that they were always the worst possible scenarios.

    Like Sal, my daughter wasn’t entirely certain that the death of the baby wasn’t Sal’s fault. I thought it should have been more clear that in no way was Sal responsible. We also discussed the boundary issues with touching – if something makes you uncomfortable nothing is wrong with you, that’s your instincts kicking in to protect you. And we also discussed how books and tv make situations the most extreme possible for drama and impact. I think that helped her come to terms with why things were so extreme. I could go on and on about more things we discussed but those were the main points.

    As far as why the teacher chose this book, I agree that a lot of the wording in this book is beautiful. For example, the houses being lined up like bird houses and then the multiple ways to say “small” in describing the rooms of her new house. As far as the relationship, she was thinking of Sal as 13. I admit, that I was confused about the age at first too, but was looking for it because of your review. But my daughter (who’s 10) was thinking of it as someone her own age.

    I really appreciate the fact that the teacher took the time to discuss it with me and to really listen to my concerns. People can see books very differently, and I appreciate the difficulty a teacher has in figuring out all the ways a book could be interpreted. And, in the end, since I was alerted and read the book, both my discussions with my daughter and knowing that I discussed it with her teacher helped lesson the impact my my daughter. So thanks again for this review!

    • ayvalentine says:

      Thanks so much for the update! I was struck by how your daughter also wasn’t sure if the still birth was Sal’s fault – I think there’s a big difference between exploring emotions kids can identify with and actually enabling them to nurture their darkest fears. Also, it’s interesting to me that your daughter assumed Sal was her age – although that makes perfect sense. And most of what Sal is dealing with is that much more disturbing if you think of her as 10.

      I’m so glad the review was able to help you work through these issues!

  3. GraciesMom says:

    My daughter is a 9-year-old 4th grader and this is required reading. She told me the book made her sad and she couldn’t really express it any other way than to say, “Every female character in the story is messed up – they run away from their problems and then most of them die.” SO I picked it up and started reading. She too thought Sal was her own age and asked if 9 year-olds should be able to drive the car and if they should be smoking peace pipes. She was also bothered by the kissing.

    I’ll need to have a conversation with her teacher. I don’t think this book is appropriate for this age group.

    • ayvalentine says:

      At the very least, it seems to me that this book calls for more explicit guidance and discussion with the teacher. I think it’s very common for kids to assume the protagonists of books are close to them in age, and Walk Two Moons becomes even more problematic if you assume Sal is the age of most kids this book seems to be assigned to.

Speak Your Mind