Analysis: Writing Style
Straightforward, Colorful, and Awesome
The Five Senses
Sal uses all five senses when she observes things. Yep, that's right: a country girl from a farm in Bybanks notices how things smell, taste, look, feel, and sound. Want a fun project? Go through this book and keep track of all of the time Sal talks about how things taste and smell and feel. You might notice that her senses really kick into gear around Ben Finney:
Tommy bashed into me, and when I started to fall backward, Ben caught me. He put his arms around my waist and held on to me, even after it was obvious that I was not going to fall. I could smell that funny grapefruit smell again and feel his face pressed up against my hair. (11.29)
If that description doesn't get your heart humming, we don't know what will. Grapefruits have such a delicious smell that we don't need one in front of our noses in order to smell it – we remember from our own experience. This is some great storytelling. We readers get to smell, feel, and taste things right along with Sal. It's kind of like a high-def reading experience.
Sal is also a really patient storyteller. She likes to give us all of the sensory details, instead of just summarizing what's going on. Consider all of the times Sal talks about the things she has of her mother's:
In my bureau were three things of hers that I had taken from her closet after she had left: a red, fringed shawl; a blue sweater; and a yellow-flowered cotton dress that was always my favorite. These things had her smell on them. (30.52)
Again, she uses her senses to describe these beautiful things that belonged to her mother. We can see and smell them right along with her, which makes our understanding of her mother all the more vivid.
Slowly but Surely
Our girl is definitely not in a hurry to tell her story. She takes her time, almost as though she really wants to do it justice. And because Sal is quite smart, she knows just when to reveal what. Think about how she intertwines all the stories together. Instead of first telling us about Bybanks, and then telling us about Euclid, and then telling us about her road trip, she tells us about all three at once. She flits back and forth between them and braids them together into a bewitching concoction of pure awesomeness.
As we read, there are so many ways in which we're kept in the dark. Just what exactly happened to Sal's mom? And what about Mrs. Winterbottom? Who is leaving those messages on the Winterbottoms' front stoop? If you think about it, Sal is telling us this story in the past tense, so she already knows the answers to these questions. But she's the ultimate secret keeper, and we actually really like that about her. It makes every rereading of the book a whole new experience, and every page turn a thrill.
A Guide to Gram and Gramps Hiddle's Awesome Vocabulary and Phrases
And finally, Shmoop would like to draw your attention to all the colorful colloquialisms (that is, words or phrases in everyday, ordinary conversation) that Sal uses to tell her story. She must get these from her hometown of Bybanks, because Gram and Gramps use similar phrases and words. Sometimes they're so quirky that they might throw you for a loop, but hopefully this guide will help:
- Chickabiddy – Sharon Creech says: "I think it means 'little child' in slang. I discovered the word in a thesaurus, and I think at the time I was looking up a synonym for 'grandchild'" (source).
- Spin us a yarn (20.17) – "Tell us a story!"
- A whangdoodle (3.11) – An adjective expressing something amazing or out of the ordinary
- Gol-dang! (5.6) – "Gosh darn!"
- scads more (5.3) – "Tons more"
- thumpingly (6.13) – "very, very, very"
- gooseberry (7.3) – "honey pie"
- jing-bang (7.4) – "gosh darn"
- plumb missed (7.3) – "completely missed"
- hankering (8.4) – "a craving"
- horsefeathers (10.5) – "oh pooh"
What other words or phrases can you add to this list? Does Sal have any phrases of her own?