I was looking for an audiobook for a short trip. I used the CommonSense list of 50 books every child should read by age 12 as a starting point to see if the library had any of them. This was the perfect length for our trip.
Genre: middle grade fiction
Length: 280 pages
Setting: various locations within the U.S., 1990s
Summary: Everything changed for Salamanca when her mother left. Her father moved them from their farm in Kentucky to Ohio, where she became friends with Phoebe Winterbottom. Sal is on a cross-country trip with her grandparents to visit her mother in Idaho. Along the way, Sal recounts her last year in Ohio and all of Phoebe’s problems. Sal’s father has been having dinner with the widow Mrs. Cadaver who Phoebe suspects of killing her husband. Phoebe’s life looks perfect, but one day her mother just walks away. In relating Phoebe’s tale, Sal starts to understand why her mother left. Sal wants to make it to her mother by her mother’s birthday, but her grandfather likes to visit the attractions along the way. Sadly, her grandmother has a stroke and dies four hours from Idaho. Sal drives herself to Idaho and we finally find out that her mother died in a bus accident.
Final thoughts: This was a surprisingly emotional story that dealt with some deep topics for a middle grade book. We spent the entire book trying to figure out what happened to Sal’s mother. Was she dead? Had she just left? Was she in an asylum and couldn’t leave? Throughout the story, we get hints of what happened, but it’s not until the very end that we find out the full details. We also see Sal come to terms with her mother leaving as she watches Phoebe deal with the same thing. Contrasting those families were her grandparents, in a loving relationship for over 50 years. We see how loving they are on the cross-country trip, and you believe the devastation of the grandfather as his wife gets sick and dies. Overall, an excellent story we all enjoyed.
Awards won: the Newbery Award in 1995
Title comes from: It was part of a saying that was left on Phoebe’s porch. The whole thing was, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #41 for the year
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