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Salamanca Tree Hiddle tells us about a road trip she recently took with her grandparents (Gram and Gramps Hiddle) from Ohio to Idaho. In the car, they are headed west to find Sal's mother in time for her mother's birthday. Over the course of the trip, Sal tells her grandparents about her friend Phoebe's own missing mother. As you can see, there are lots of delicious stories wrapped inside of other delicious stories here.
But let's rewind a bit and give you some background information. Sal is a thirteen- year-old farm girl from Bybanks, Kentucky. Her mom recently left her and her dad, and we don't know why. When this happened, Sal's dad decided to rent out their farm in Bybanks, and he and Sal moved to Euclid, Ohio. Sal wasn't happy about this move. Euclid is bo-ring.
While in Euclid, Sal makes friends with Phoebe Winterbottom, a girl with a vivid, vivacious imagination. Phoebe's family is kind of stiff and proper. One day, Phoebe's mother disappears. Sal helps Phoebe try to track down Mrs. Winterbottom. She enjoys having this mystery to work on, because it helps distract her from how much she misses her own mother. Also, she misses her farm in Bybanks, like whoa.
Eventually, Phoebe's mother comes back home. And, well, we could tell you what happens and what she's been up to, but we're not going to. This book is too good for us to spoil all of its surprises. Just trust us when we say that Phoebe's mother is full of juicy secrets.
Sal tells her grandparents the story of Phoebe's mother as they drive across America. They stop at all of the towns and landmarks that Sal's mother recently visited. For example, they see Pipestone, Minnesota, Old Faithful in Wyoming, and the Badlands (head over to our "Setting" section for more dirt on these places). At one point, a venomous water moccasin bites Sal's grandmother while they are swimming in a river, and she has to go to the hospital. Sal's grandmother is never quite the same after this.
Just when they are about to arrive at their destination in Idaho, Sal's grandmother has to go to the hospital again. She has had a stroke. Sal is really sad – not only is one of her most favorite people in the world sick, but she might not make it to Lewiston, Idaho in time for her mother's birthday.
Sal's grandfather does what any grandfather would do. He gives Sal the keys to his car. That's right, he gives his thirteen year-old granddaughter the keys to his car. It turns out that Sal's a really good driver already. Sal drives the winding roads to the place where her mother is. And that's all we're going to tell you. We're not going to spoil what happens next, no way. You just have to read this book.
One quick thing before you do: we should tell you that Sal's grandmother sadly dies. Eventually, Sal, her grandfather, and her father move back to her beloved farm in Bybanks. At the moment Sal is telling us this story, it is summertime. Her new friends from Euclid are going to be visiting her in a few weeks.
Okay, now go read this book. Seriously.