Moon Over Manifest

Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest
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Moon Over Manifest

Clare Vanderpool

Winner of the 2011 Newbery Award. The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest–A Town with a rich past and a bright future. Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to Leave Well Enough Alone. Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters–and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town. Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption.

Review

What a story! Mystery, history, love, loss and friendship set in 1936 Kansas.

Moon Over Manifest has an eccentric cast of characters, and the most endearing and unforgettable is Abilene Tucker. Inexplicably sent by her drifter father to the small run-down town of Manifest to stay with reformed bootlegger turned minister, Shady Howard, she feels abandoned and puzzled. However, as clapped out as the town is, it hasn’t lost its heart, and it embraces and nurtures Abilene as she sets about solving the mystery of her father and his connection with it. After finding a box of letters and other ephemera, Abilene, with the help of Miss Sadie, pieces together not only the momentous times in Manifest’s history, but ultimately (and poignantly) comes to know her father.

The powerful bond that Gideon and his daughter share is the foundation of the book and the ending is very moving; this reviewer shed a few tears! Readers will be enchanted by the quirky townsfolk and the artful weaving of two narratives that is evocative and lively. Moon Over Manifest is a rich and rewarding read. Obviously the judges of the highly esteemed Newbery Medal agreed, awarding this debut novel the 2011 medal. Not to be missed. For ages nine and up.

Alexa Dretzke is from Readings Hawthorn.

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