In Walk Two Moons, the middle grades novel by Sharon Creech, Sal keeps the long car ride interesting by telling an “extensively strange story” about her friend Phoebe. Also, many of the young characters in the novel share their stories in journal entries that unexpectedly get read aloud to the whole class.
Both of these portions of Walk Two Moons could be studied as mentor texts for student writing. The story Sal tells about Phoebe will give students some good ideas for writing their own personal narratives, and the journal fiasco can be a springboard for discussion about what to include and what not to include in their own writing depending on the audience.
Sal’s Story about Phoebe
Even though Sal’s story was long and had several parts, Sal didn’t tell everything. After reading the novel, students might skim back through it and make a list of the events that Sal chose to include. They will see that each event that she chose contributed in some way to the “extensively strange” story that she planned to tell. The events include: the day the lunatic came to the door, and the disappearance of Phoebe’s mother.
The same is true of smaller plot details. In the scene where “the lunatic” is at the door, Sal tells that Phoebe yelled for her mother, pretending that her mother was home when she wasn’t, which showed how nervous Phoebe was about the stranger at the door.
Sal was also selective with the descriptive details that she chose to include. For example, she only told about the clothes that a person wore when it illustrated some detail of that person’s character to Gram and Gramps, as when she tells that her Pickford grandparents wore starched and ironed clothes. When describing her dinner with Phoebe’s parents, she even tells what foods they ate – all side dishes including potatoes, zucchini, bean salad, and a mystery casserole (details that students might sometimes be discouraged from including, especially if then tend to go on and on), but Sal’s inclusion of them here adds to her portrait of Phoebe’s parents as very exacting and cautious (and vegetarian).
In fact, Sal is good at adding just the right descriptive details throughout her story. Many of her details add to the portrait of one of her characters, especially in the early part of the story. “Huge, enormous sky-blue eyes” is one of the details about Phoebe, and we can just picture Phoebe wide-eyed with amazement, given Phoebe’s overly-dramatic view of even everyday events. Students might collect a list of details that they like and tell how each one contributes to full story.
What else did Sal include in her story?
- Lots of dialog to make her story sound real
- Figurative language to make it interesting
- Specific word choices (When “the lunatic” appeared at the door, his hands were not just in his pockets, they were “stuffed into his pockets.)
As students look for examples of each of these in Sal’s story, they can also try writing parallel examples of their own for practice.
Journals for Mr. Birkway’s Class
The chapter about the journals that the kid wrote for Mr Birkway’s class brings two rules for any writer to mind.
- Know who your audience is.
If the kids had known that the whole class was going to be their audience, their journal entries would have been much different. And that brings me to rule number two.
2. Write with your audience in mind.
This scene in Walk Two Moons, would be a great lead in to a discussion about what to include and what not to include in writing for a school audience of teachers and other students. In a class discussion, kids could brainstorm a list of good rules or suggestions for their own class. Depending on the group and their situation, some ideas might include: add interesting details, be selective with your details, be polite, keep some ideas to yourself, include positive statements, and be accurate.
If you are interested in a full novel study or a quick game for use with this novel, (or resources for some other great middle grades novels) you can check out the previews using the links below.