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Literature / Walk Two Moons

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Walk Two Moons is a Newbery Medal-winning middle grade novel by Sharon Creech. It tells the story of Sal, an adolescent Native American girl who goes on a journey to find her mother. Along the way, she tells her grandparents the story of her friend Phoebe and her relationship with her own mother.

Examples of tropes present in the novel:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Gram and Gramps always refer to Phoebe as "Peeby".
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  • Affectionate Nickname: Gramps calls Gram his "gooseberry". Sal is her grandparents' "chickabiddy."
  • Arc Words: "Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins."
    • Also, all the other mysterious notes contain aphorisms that get repeated throughout the novel.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: From Phoebe's report on Pandora: "Inside the box were all the evils of the world, such as hatred, envy, plagues, sickness, and cholesterol."
  • Awesome McCoolname: Sal's full name is Salamanca Tree Hiddle.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Gram dies, but Gramps is able to move on with his family and Sal is able to finally make peace with her mother's death and eventually grow close to Margaret upon learning she tried to save her mother's life.
  • The Boo Radley: Mrs Cadaver.
  • Catchphrase: Gramps says "This ain't our marriage bed, but it will do" every night before bed.
    • Gram's "Huzza, huzza!"
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Gram. Also, Sal's mom actually dies before the beginning of the novel, but we don't find out until the end.
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  • Driving Question: Why did Sal's mother go away, and where is she now?
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Mrs. Cadaver, despite her...interesting surname, is most definitely a good hearted person, as the ending chapters confirm.
  • Family Theme Naming: The Finneys. Parents Sally and Sam, daughters Maggie and Mary Lou, and older sons Dennis and Dougie. The exception is Tommy, and possibly cousin Ben, who is living with the family during Walk Two Moons because apparently, the Finneys are always hosting some random relative.
  • Fish out of Water: Sal, after she and her father move to suburbia. She adapts relatively well, but she's considered a bit of a weirdo.
  • Framing Device: Pheobe's story is being told by Sal to her grandparent's. Zigzagged in that she also breaks the fourth wall to narrate directly to the reader.
  • Hero of Another Story: Mary Lou Finney, Sal and Phoebe's friend from school, is the protagonist of Absolutely Normal Chaos, which was written before this book but published in the U.S. afterward.
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  • In Medias Res / How We Got Here: Toyed with. Sal spends most of the book telling her grandparents the story of her time in Iowa, but that story ends up not having much to do with the current situation of their road trip.
  • Ironic Name: Mrs. Cadaver is eventually revealed as the Sole Survivor of a bus accident that killed Sal's mother.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The boy who confronts Gram, Gramps and Sal about the "private property" they were wading in. It's implied he was going to steal from them and threatens Gramps, but after Gram gets bit by a snake he helps them get her to the hospital and in the end doesn't try to extort them, admitting to Sal before leaving the waiting room that "it wasn't really private property."
    Sal: I figured as much.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Mike turns out to be Mrs. Winterbottom's son. We also find out that Mr. Birkway and Mrs. Cadaver are brother and sister.
  • Maybe Ever After: For most of the book, Sal assumes that Mrs. Cadaver is her father's new love interest. Although Margaret assures her that they're just friends, she doesn't completely shoot down the idea they might one day become more than that.
  • Meaningful Name: Attempted and failed. Salamanca's parents intended to name her after her mother's and grandmother's Native American tribe, but they got it wrong. By the time they found out that they were of the Seneca tribe, they were already used to "Salamanca" and just left it.
  • Nice to the Waiter: How Gram decided if she’d accept Gramps’ proposal. She asked him about how he treated his dog.
‘’If you treat a dog that good, I figure you’ll probably treat me better. If that old beagle Sadie loves you, I figure I’ll probably love you better. Yes, I’ll marry you.”
  • The Nicknamer: Ben.
  • One Degree of Separation: Phoebe's teacher just happens to be the brother of her next door neighbour, and the cop she talks to is her half-brother's adopted father.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Sal is only ever called "Salamanca" by her mother and grandparents.
    • Sal explains that her mother was given a Native American name, Chanhassen, meaning "tree sweet juice," or "maple sugar," but only her own mother called her that. Everyone else called her "Sugar," which she disliked.
  • Overly Long Name: Averted. Sal's middle name, Tree, was chosen by her mother, because trees are "a thing of such beauty to [her] that she made it part of my name." She goes on to say that she originally wanted to use her favorite tree, and name her daughter Salamanca Sugar Maple Tree Hiddle, but "that was too much, even for her."
  • Parents as People: In some ways, the main conflict of the two stories — both Phoebe's and Sal's — is their having to suddenly come to terms with the fact that their mothers have lives, problems, and hang-ups that have nothing to do with being their mother (even though some of them do have to do with their own motherhood in general).
    • Chanhassen Pickford Hiddle seems to have been depressed. She suffered a late-term miscarriage (second trimester at least given that the baby was developed enough that they could tell the sex just by looking) after a long period of infertility and subsequently had to have a hysterectomy, losing any chance to ever have another child, and while she loves her husband and daughter, she feels like she doesn't know who she is. She feels like she isn't as good or kind as her husband, and we know also that she isn't as stern or serious as her parents, and she left to go on a cross-country trip in an effort to find herself, and to visit a cousin she hadn't seen in a long time, in the hopes that they could help her figure out who she is and was, with or without her marriage and motherhood.
    • Mrs. Winterbottom had a child out of wedlock before she met her husband, probably pretty young, and her husband is so respectable that she was never comfortable telling him, and she was so burned out trying to be the perfect mother and wife that, when her first child figured out who she was and contacted her, she, similarly to Sal's mom, left to get to know both him and herself. When she comes back to the family in new clothes and a new haircut, she confesses everything.
  • The Reveal: Throughout the story, we're left wondering what happened to Sal's mother, only to learn she tragically died in a bus crash, and the reason her father is so attached to Margaret is because she was there trying to save Sal's mother, but was unable to do so.
  • Sole Survivor: Mrs. Cadaver, of the crash that killed Sal's mother.
  • Stepford Smiler: Mrs. Winterbottom, up until she no longer has the energy for it.
  • Title Drop: The longer proverb the title is drawn from ("Don't judge a man until you've walked two moons in his moccasins") comes up several times over the course of the book.
  • Unfortunate Name: Mrs. Cadaver. The Winterbottoms. Lampshaded by Phoebe and Ben, respectively. The former is also the main reason Phoebe believes her to be evil.