Walk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

walktwomoonsReading level: 4.9

Genre: Realistic fiction, mystery

ELL-Friendly: Mostly

Library recommendation: Middle school

This book was read to my 3rd grade class many years ago, so as I re-read it, bits and pieces of plots and characters came back to me. Yet the ending caught me off guard; I really didn’t see it coming (which I suppose was kind of obvious for someone who hadn’t even read the book), and then crying ensued.

It’s quite a beautiful story of loss, friendship, love, and family. As Salamanca narrates her story as well as her friend Phoebe’s, she comes to understand herself. I really disliked Phoebe because she was just not a likeable character, but Sal likes her because Sal knows what’s it’s like to be in her shoes. That’s a good lesson for anyone: don’t judge a man till you have walked two moons in his moccasins.

The “love” between Sal and Ben is just precious – awkward, beautiful, teenage love. And nothing too graphic to  keep the book off the school shelves! Yay! Or, as Gram would say, “Huzza, huzza.”

Sal is part Native American/Indian and there are bits throughout the book about various Native American controversies. At once point, Sal mentions that if a Native were to demand that the land they were on was his, she would give it back…because it belonged to the Natives. At one tourist town, she explains how the Natives prefer to be called Indians and how a place with the word “Injun” was crossed out and re-written to say “Indian.”

Sal gleams over these bits because she is young and it’s not something she’s focused on, but there is much that students could discuss and write about. Walk Two Moons could also be an excellent mentor text because there are two stories happening at once that are separate yet come together at the end.

The book is basically ELL-friendly except there’s quite a bit of colloquialisms like “catching fish in the air.” If the book were read as a class, those phrases could be explained. I would worry about ELLs reading the book without some oversight. Perhaps the teacher could tell the student to write down any phrase she didn’t understand (give some examples) and turn it into a mini-assignment about guessing and researching what those phrases mean. Gramps pronounces words in interesting ways (carburetor becomes car-burn-ator or something) which might also through off some ELLs. But there’s not enough of those to hang students up and make them miss meaning.

I might recommend the book to a student who has moved or will move, or a student who has lost a family member. While the book is sad at the end, it’s all about Sal coping with the losses.

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