“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”
Synopsis from Goodreads: Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s mother has disappeared. While tracing her steps on a car trip from Ohio to Idaho with her grandparents, Salamanca tells a story to pass the time about a friend named Phoebe Winterbottom whose mother vanished and who received secret messages after her disappearance. One of them read, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” Despite her father’s warning that she is “fishing in the air,” Salamanca hopes to bring her home. By drawing strength from her Native American ancestry, she is able to face the truth about her mother.
Feelings: I remember reading this book when I was in 8th grade. It was an assigned text and while I couldn’t really recall what it was about exactly – I remember loving it. Recently, I’ve been reconsidering what books I teach in my 8th grade class and thought I’d see about this one, so it was time for a re-read. I’m SO glad I picked this book up again!
Something that really jumped off the pages to me is the way Creech writes. There’s something really poetic and magical about the words and phrases she uses. I felt myself getting swept away in her language and that’s something I really love about reading.
There are a lot of things going on in this story – a lot of really well woven together elements. In the “present”, we’re traveling with Sal and her wild grandparents and she tells us a story of the past, introducing us to Phoebe Winterbottom and Mrs. Cadaver. As she relays this story, we learn more about her as a person than we could if we were just in the present. Within this tapestry, there’s mystery and sweet young love and heartbreak and layers and layers more.
Issues: At the very beginning, I got a little confused about whether or not Sal’s mom was alive. She told us her mom was “resting peacefully”, but then talked about how the trip with her grandparents was so they could “bring her home.” I don’t know if this was something the author used to make us question intentionally, but it’s probably the closest thing I have to an issue in this book.
Characters: Making this journey with Sal made her more relatable to me. I haven’t experienced everything that she has, but because she was telling her story to us herself, I felt what she was going through. There were moments where I could tell that Sal had hardened her emotions, which is understandable, but we got to see her let people in and let herself feel. This is so powerful, especially to young readers who may see themselves in her situation.
Phoebe is a PILL. Sometimes I wanted to tell her to shut up, but I never got so annoyed by her that I skimmed over her dialogue or hoped for her life to fall to pieces. I certainly wanted her to appreciate her mother more and I think she was well on her way there by the end.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of this story was spending time with Sal’s grandparents. I’ve lost beloved grandparents and reading about her travels made me imagine laughing with my family, too, and that’s a precious thing to me. Their love for each other and for Sal was really sweet and a dynamic that I think YA literature is missing the mark on more and more.
Final thoughts: This is still one of my favorite books even after all these years. I’ve been reading so much modern YA lit lately that it was nice to pick up a book that was written more than 10 years ago and see how different stories were. (Because they may have had a lot of similarities, but there are for sure a lot of differences!) I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little bit different.
Goodreads rating: 3.95/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5
My rating: 4.5/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn