True Story: Walk Two Moons

Introducing… another regular series you can expect to see on the blog — True Story!

Every week on the podcast, you hear a lot of my thoughts and opinions about the book we’re covering on each episode. But you don’t get to hear all of my thoughts and opinions. Riiiiiiight? Right. While it’s important to me to be open with you about the books we discuss, my primary goal as the host of the show is to guide the conversation and get the guest’s take on things. After all, we get some pretty awesome guests, and I want them to bring their unique perspective to the topic at hand!

With the blog, though, comes the chance for me to share more of my own feelings about many of the titles we cover on the pod. Every Friday (well, almost every Friday), you can come here for the True Story — at least, IMHO! — about the week’s book. I’m excited to make this a place where you can share your own opinions and experiences, based both on your own childhood reading memories and what you thought while listening to the podcast. Let’s make the comments section a lively (and respectful, duh) place!

As you may already know, the latest episode of the show was a Q+A, so this first installment of True Story will cover the book we discussed last week, Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons. (Listen to the episode here! And get a refresher on the story with this summary!)

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I spend a lot of time on Episode 52 talking with my guest Katharine Scrivener (who you may know better as bookstagram’s @readwithkat) about the main plot points and character beats of Walk Two Moons, but with a book as rich as this one, it’s impossible to cover everything in just an hour. Here are a few of my other thoughts…

There are some really beautiful love stories in this book.

While romance certainly isn’t the focus of Walk Two Moons, there are a few seriously sweet love stories going on. First, there’s our narrator Sal’s budding — and EXTREMELY awkward — relationship with her will-they-or-won’t-they friend Ben. Like so many successful couples, Sal and Ben meet when they’re part of the same friend group… and like so many middle schoolers, they experience some incredibly awkward kissing attempts over the course of the book. Some of these misses were especially cringe-y, but I loved being in Sal’s head as she questioned Ben’s feelings, as well as her own.

Walk Two Moons would also not be the same without Gram and Gramps. Sal’s grandparents are free spirits who don’t seem to take anything too seriously, but their love for each other is painfully obvious. One of my favorite parts about their relationship is that it’s not perfect! There are a few references to Gram’s rendezvous with a milkman years earlier — an obstacle that these two have clearly had to overcome. But overcome it they did, and their interactions are the cutest (and the most heartbreaking at the end).

And I can’t forget the relationship between Sal’s parents! We never get the chance to watch these two interact in real time, but Sal’s memories paint a picture of real happiness.

the adults aren’t perfect… and they’re not afraid to apologize, even to kids.

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you know how much I love it when the grown-ups in kid lit prove themselves fallible. I love it even more when they actually have to admit that to the kids! Walk Two Moons takes this plot line a step further. Several of the adult characters reveal their flaws and “weaknesses” to Sal and her friends, but their teacher Mr. Birkway goes so far as to actually apologize to them! When he sends the class into chaos by reading entries from student journals aloud (you can only IMAGINE what was in there), he makes a public apology, admitting that it was a mistake to share things that should have remained their secrets.

I think it’s important for kids to see adults modeling apologies… and since apologizing doesn’t necessarily get any easier as we get older, Mr. Birkway’s example is well-taken, even for us grown-ups!

Phoebe winterbottom’s dietary restrictions seem a lot less quirky to me in 2019.

Sal’s new BFF Phoebe Winterbottom comes from a family that is very concerned with cholesterol. Dinners at the Winterbottom household are a very healthy affair. When Mrs. Winterbottom disappears, Phoebe copes with her sadness in ways that may seem unexpected. For one, she doubles down on the dietary restrictions imposed by her mom in the first place.

One evening, Sal and Phoebe are invited to have dinner at Ben and Mary Lou’s house, and Phoebe has a bit of a meltdown at the table when she finds that none of the available food is satisfactory. She goes into an extensive explanation of why each of the dishes is unhealthy, refusing to eat them all. I can only imagine that when I read this as an elementary schooler, Phoebe’s extensive list of dietary restrictions seemed completely absurd… but the conversation around food has shifted substantially over the last two decades. While I still can’t say I approve of Phoebe’s bratty behavior (there are polite ways to talk with your host about your food allergies and special dietary regimen!), I am much more sympathetic to the fact that she’s asking for certain adjustments to her meal.

Sal’s frustration about the pace of their road trip felt so real to me.

For most of the book, it’s unclear to us as readers whether Sal’s mother is dead or alive in Lewiston, Idaho… but we do know that Sal has decided it’s crucial that she and her grandparents make it to their destination in time for her mom’s birthday if they have any hope of “bringing her back.” As someone who gets very anxious about being on time (ideally, early!), I could literally feel it in my body when Sal was beginning to stress about whether or not she, Gram, and Gramps could get to Idaho by this deadline. Sharon Creech did such an amazing job of illustrating this!

There are more explicit references to mental health.

On the episode, Katharine and I talk briefly about some of the more vague references to mental health in Walk Two Moons. When the book was published in 1994, we simply didn’t have the same level of openness about the subject that we do now! The author does, however, paint thoughtful pictures of characters who are struggling with anxiety and depression, and in Sal and Phoebe’s explorations of their missing mothers, it’s impossible not to wonder if these women need more support with respect to their mental health.

There is, however, one more explicit reference to this subject that Katharine and I did not get to mention on mic. Sal’s friend Ben is staying with his cousin Mary Lou and her family, but for most of the book, we’re not totally sure why. Ultimately, we learn that his mother is a patient at a mental health facility. Sal even goes with Ben to visit her! I think it’s important for kids to understand that these resources are available and real… and that they don’t have to be scary.

sal’s relationship with her grandparents reminds me of my own grandmother.

There’s not much about the final chapters of Walk Two Moons that isn’t emotional, but the loss of Gram is probably what hit me the hardest. I lost my own grandmother very suddenly back in September, and when Sal experiences a similarly unexpected tragedy while on the road with her grandparents, it broke my heart into a million little pieces. I’m not one to cry over a book… but this one brought me pretty close to tears!

Listen to the podcast episode about Walk Two Moons here!

I can’t wait to hear your “true story” thoughts about Walk Two Moons. Share them with me in the comments below.

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