The Pieces Now Make Sense {Book Club}

Walk Two Moons

I cried as I finished  Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. The kind of tears where I was crying and trying to see the words and wanting to see the words because I wanted to know what happened.

Last week the conversation in the comments was rich. Several of you commented that at first you were not so taken with Walk Two Moons, but you’re glad you persevered because about half-way through, it hooked you. I do not read tons of YA books—but the discussion we have had with this one has inspired me to rotate a bit more YA reading into Book Club—anyway.  I do not read tons of YA books, but I am wondering if this isn’t the pattern of really great YA books. First half okay, not great, not horrible, but then the great ones suck you in. Thoughts? Others who read more YA, have you noticed this pattern?

One scene that was mentioned in the comments was when Mr. Birkway read parts of his student’s journals out loud. That scene was at the very start of today’s section—no biggie it was mentioned!—but I hadn’t read it, so I couldn’t comment. While even Mr. Birkway realized it was not a good move (he went to Phoebe’s house to apologize), some questioned how believable it was, saying that a teacher would never do that in a classroom.

That comment got me thinking.

I have been a full-time teacher in the past. Most of my lessons have gone the way I envision them as I planned them in my office days or hours before I taught them. But every now and then?

A lesson got away from me.

What I thought would happen, did not. Did not! Oh my word, DID NOT! (What just happened?!)

And so, in defense of Mr. Birkway, I share three lessons that might have you questioning my competency as a teacher.

It was the final period of the day and my room of junior high math students felt more like a morgue than a class room. In an attempt to wake them up I said, “Let’s sing a song” and asked them if they know “Tony Chestnut,” a song that has actions. They did not. In order for them to see me acting out the song, I stood on my desk.

That is right. Without thought, other than to get some energy into the class, I hopped up on my desk and stood so they could see me. Before I knew what was happening, all of them were up on their desks. WHAT?! No. No. No. No. No. No.

Even today I remember the intense fear that an administrator would stick his or her head in the door. How could I explain that we were all standing on our desks. Singing. Oh sweet Jesus, if you ever loved a fool who didn’t mean to get herself into a corner, here I am!

Next scene. A classroom in the distant land of China. This time, instead of math, I am teaching a reading class and we are reading The Giver by Lois Lowry. About halfway through the book, the questions start to come in their journals, “Amy, this book seems a lot like China. Like the Communist Party. Do you think so?”

What in the world?!!!! No, no, no, no, no I was not trying to make a political statement. I was trying to teach about the importance of memory, of community, of being alive. I was trying to use a book that was at their reading level and show them there are plenty of good books that are not “famous” and break them from he obsession of trying to read classic literature that was far too hard for them. And now, I was flirting with disaster.

Not wanting to draw more attention to how out of hand this could get, I wrote over and over in journals, “This is the power of literature, we all can see our own societies reflected in it. No, I do not see the Communist Party, I see the American political system. I am glad you are enjoying this book.”

Final scene, this time a writing classroom. Never one to shy away from aiming FAR TOO HIGH, I decided to teach them about sonnet writing. Here is the challenge I had not foreseen: sonnet writing requires rhyming words and they would be rhyming in a foreign language where their textbooks/pronunciation was British English and teacher spoke American English. This just might be a recipe for disaster. Add to the fun that many of the sonnets we read referenced body parts. So, many of my students, who were married, set out to write sonnets about their spouses and to seek rhyming words with both body parts and synonyms of body parts. What rhymes with “bits” and is related to parts of the female anatomy.

That’s right. I basically assigned “pornography sonnets.”

So, Mr. Birkway, I get how a lesson can go sideways. Class mob, political statements, and inappropriate poetry. I feel ya.

As we finished off the book this week, I had a sense of satisfaction as I understood how Mrs. Cadaver had suffered and lost her husband and her mother lost her sight. I could see why Sal’s dad was drawn to her, and wanted to be near the last person to be near his wife. To hear how she spoke of them, loved them, and wasn’t really running away from them, she just happened to die as she was working out her grief.

And then for Phoebe and Ben to learn more about their own mothers. I marked quite a few sentences in this section, but since this is near the end, will save them for the comments if you are interested.

Have you ever had a lesson or a situation “go sideways” on you? Do tell!

How satisfying did you find the ending? What would you have like more of? Or less of? Let’s talk in the comments!

Amy

P.S. In two weeks we start another excellent book: The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason. I found a free version, but it is only available in some countries. Check out if you can get it for free! There are 24 chapters, so we will read 6 each week.

February 6: 1-6
February 13: 7-12
February 20: 13-18
February 27: 19-24

P.S. Next week we have a treat!!

15 Comments

  1. Kiera January 22, 2018

    I mentioned before we started this book that it was one of my favorites growing up and I’m sure I’ve read it at least 25 times, though it had been a while since I’d last read it. Reading it again for book club, of course I couldn’t stop and had to read it all the way through. I was afraid of giving away spoilers, and to be honest, couldn’t be bothered to look back to where everything happened, so I’ve waited to comment until now. I found it interesting that for having read it so often, there were things I didn’t remember. I recall when I first read it, that I didn’t realize her mother had died until the very end, but re-reading this time, I noticed that early on, she says her mother is “resting peacefully” in Idaho. I completely forgot about the baby and what had happened there, but I remembered about the journals and Mrs. Cadaver and Mr. Birkway being related. I remembered what happened to Phoebe’s mother but forgot who was leaving the messages. The thing that most stuck out to me this time was that for both Sal’s mother and Phoebe’s they seemed to put all of their identity on being a mother and when that didn’t pan out they were adrift. It spoke to me because most of what I do in life right now is being a mother, but it is helpful and important to remember that it isn’t all I am. I need to ground my identity in who I am in Christ, so that when being a mom is hard or not satisfying or whatever, that I don’t lose myself.

    1. Amy Young January 24, 2018

      Kiera!! I love, love, love when I get to read a book that someone loves so much (even if I didn’t know it at the time, when I learn about reading a “fav” book, it elevates it for me). And I love when you re-read a book and see breadcrumbs. I totally missed “resting peacefully”, but can see if I HAD noticed it, it is most definitely a clue :).

      I also like the lesson you’ve pulled out — for all of us, to be invested in what is dear, yes. But not to solely build our identity on it.

      Since you are a Walk Two Moons expert, why did Sal’s mom choose Idaho? I have forgotten :). I know why she was going on the trip, but was there something special about Idaho?

      1. Kiera January 25, 2018

        Yes, she said had a cousin there who had known her when she was young, who could tell her what she was like on the inside – sounds to me like she was searching for that core identity that came before she was ever a mother.

        Reminds me too of how she made a comment near the end that she wanted to be called Chanhassen and not Sugar – I think she was reaching for depth.

  2. sarah January 23, 2018

    That is sooo funny- you having your students in China read The Giver. I feel like that must have been your subconscious playing a joke on you or some thing.
    The two memories that immediately pop into my head about classroom things in China that went sideways are:
    – Unintentionally starting a major jealousy feud among my students one day by drawing some “gold stars” on the board when a student gave an especially good answer, and then later other students wanted gold stars, so I started just randomly drawing stars on the board when people gave good answers. Yeah, totally fed into all the competitive academics angst from their childhoods and suddenly my 40-year old students were arguing over who had stars and who didn’t. The funniest part was that they thought they looked like butterflies, not stars, so they were yelling at each other about gold butterflies.
    – Similar to your chair story, in a post-lunch class when we were all feeling lethargic, I led my teenaged students in a session of jumping around the classroom to the classic tune of “Kris Kross will make you want to Jump! Jump!” I think we performed it for their parents on Parent Night. 😆

    Back to the book, yeah, the end part about her not being there when Gram passed was really hard for me. I knew that Gram wouldn’t have wanted her to miss her mom’s birthday, but… yeah, I missed my 2 closest grandparents’ deaths and funerals bc I was on the field and that just kind of hit me. That pull between being where you feel you need to be but also wanting so much to be there for the important things is something we all face and we all have to make frequent choices about in this work.
    I thought the ending was perfect.

    1. Amy Young January 24, 2018

      Sarah 🙂 . . yeah, we’ll go with “funny” because “horrifying” is too painful!!! Hahahaha. And I had to chuckle at the “gold star” incident in your classroom because I can picture it happening . . . and suddenly what was a good idea and going well, shooting off at a right angle and being a nightmare. (This brings to mind me dumping “reward beans” on a lecture in a class I was subbing for a friend. I was so frustrated with the students and wanted to make the point their behavior was THE OPPOSITE OF what could be rewarded)

      Back to the book at hand :). I”m very sorry you missed the death of your grandparents.Yes, the costs of the call are real, sigh. I hadn’t thought about it, for for Sal to process her mom’s death, she missed her grandmas.

      1. sarah January 26, 2018

        Man, there were definitely a few classes I would have loved to dump reward beans on.

  3. Kristi January 24, 2018

    I had never heard of this book, so I’m intrigued to hear some people comment about having read it over and over again in the last 20 years. How did I miss it? I do not choose YA books much, but I really enjoyed this, and it prompts me to consider them more often. I listened to the book, which was an enjoyable experience (and even checked it out here in Africa via the library app Overdrive), and I got so into the book as I was working around the house that I finished last week and then didn’t want to comment because I didn’t know where the chapter breaks were.

    The style of a story within a story was really interesting. I think it helped not to make one story too slow since they wove in and out–but sometimes I felt a little confused about what was present or what was past. And I also appreciated the way that Sal, Phoebe, and Ben had mothers that were gone, each with different circumstances, but in a way that helped them to understand and sympathize with each other.

    I liked the ending, and the way the characters lives were weaved together. It seemed almost unrealistic the way that they were so connected, but I do appreciate the repeated cases of where someone or some event was not the way Sal or Phoebe had originally interpreted it. A wonderful life lesson! Take time to ask questions or learn about someone before making judgments. 🙂

    1. Amy Young January 24, 2018

      Kristi, I was also surprised Kiera had read it so often! I had heard of it from my nieces, but didn’t realize it was someone’s fav book! I think I’ll try and pick other YA books that are a bit “older” so they will be available on Overdrive. And good point on how part of Sal and PHoebe’s life were not as they thought . . . and the importance to slow down and get more of a story!

      1. Kiera January 25, 2018

        Amy – here’s an idea for future book club: Island of the Blue Dolphins. I loved it as a child too and then taught it for a number of years to my 5th grade students. And actually, I love The Giver too – so much that I refuse to watch the recent movie adaptation because I don’t want it wrecked for me.

  4. Phyllis January 24, 2018

    Whoa.

    The ending almost did me in. I think you had mentioned that you thought her mother was dead earlier on. I was kind of feeling that, too. But a bus crash?! Someone in my life lost her mother when a bus flipped recently. It’s her story, not mine, but, like I said… Whoa. Can you please just stop and pray for this person, for me, for everything related to it? It’s complicated.

    I think I wish this book was available in Russian, but then maybe I’m glad it’s not.

    I’m going to be thinking about all this for a while.

    Sorry for what may be an incoherent comment.

    1. Amy Young January 24, 2018

      Oh Phylis, I can imagine why the ending about did you in. What a shock. Have you read the novel “The short history of tractors in Ukrainian?” Very well written and entertaining. Except my sister read it at a time her in-laws were being massively scammed and they did not think they were being scammed and they would NOT STOP giving the scammers money. It was awful. And a little too close to Tractors. Actually, that would be a good book for us to read because of the cross-cultural themes. Still, that bus crash death with Sal’s mom and your friend, too close. No incoherent at all. Thank you of commenting and hugs and prayers from afar.

      1. Kiera January 25, 2018

        I have heard that’s a great book but haven’t read it yet – maybe if you make it a book club book, Amy, then I will read it. 🙂

    2. sarah January 26, 2018

      Phyllis, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend’s mom’s death. I am and will pray the Lord’s comfort for your friend.

  5. Spring January 28, 2018

    I was also crying at the end of the book. I have to admit “Peebee” confused me until things were explained. I love how Sal saw herself in that situation. I also was upset her grandmother died.. I guess I felt there was enough sadness in the book. Of course it is good I’m not the author!

    I have had many things go awry. I am not a teacher, so mine didn’t involve lessons. 😉 One that is an embarrassment to me happened when we met my brother’s biological family. We were to pick them up from the train station. My adopted brother came with, and each of the family members were shaking my hand. My brother stuck his hand in the mix. I shook it as well. There was a comment made “We all look alike don’t we” but in his case he DOES look like his biological siblings and family! I was still so embarrassed that I didn’t notice it was him.

    I also struggled with the saddness because my own grandmother passed last week. I had finished reading Walk two moons and was starting to read Before We were Yours. That one is a doozy. I know it will get better but it was too sad. I just couldn’t get through it! Maybe a different time.

  6. Emily January 30, 2018

    I’m really late to the party, but I’ll post anyway! The book felt slow in the beginning, but once it got going, it was hard to put down. I suspected Sal’s mom had died right from the start, but kept hoping there would be some other explanation for why she wasn’t coming back. I started crying when Gramps gave Sal the keys and money at the hospital. It was heartbreakingly sweet that her grandparents (paternal grandparents!) were willing to do so much just so that Sal could get to Lewiston on her mom’s birthday.

    I also teared up when Gramps said he finally wrote Gram a love letter. It struck me that things like that happen far too often in relationship, don’t they? Gram really wanted a love letter, but never thought to say so. Gramps obviously loved Gram to pieces but never though to write a love letter to her.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>