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Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

2011 John Newbery Medal Winner

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Cover of Moon Over Manifest, children's fiction 2011 Newbery Medal winner

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, 2011 Newbery Medal Winner

Random House

Moon Over Manifest

It is always a pleasure to read a book that is appropriate for ages 10-14 and is both well written and interesting for that age group. Moon Over Manifest has small and large mysteries, interesting characters and enough plot surprises to keep readers guessing right up to the end. The details and red herrings that author Clare Vanderpool weaves into this story of a 12-year-old girl searching for answers in the same small town that helped shape her father’s character make this a satisfying read.

The use of symbolism and the discussions of community and family make this a good candidate for classroom discussion. Clare Vanderpool was awarded the 2011 John Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest from the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. The Newbery Medal is given for “distinguished contribution to literature for children.”

Moon Over Manifest: The Setting

The Depression-era small town of Manifest, Kansas, is nothing like the town that Abilene’s father, Gideon, knew as a boy. The town grew up around the strip mines that yielded both coal and danger for the miners. Immigrants from more than twenty countries found their way to a new life in the town, which thrived at the beginning of the century. But time and tragedy had taken its toll, and all that was left were a few shops and diehard citizens.
Not only do the Depression and the mining industry impact the town’s well-being, but the effects of Prohibition and bootlegging play a big part in the story as well. Based on actual towns and events in southeast Kansas, the story brings alive a community that is struggling to survive and community members who pull together when times are tough. Manifest is an "every town" that could be any small Midwestern town trying to regain its pride and vitality during the dark days of the Depression.

Moon Over Manifest: The Story

“It is not down on any map. True places never are” (Herman Melville).

Abilene Tucker has spent her short life searching for that “true place.” Since her mother left, she has wandered about the country with her father, never having a real home, but secure in her father’s love. Abilene and her father have survived by their wits through the Depression era, but when her father realizes that Abilene is becoming a young woman, he sends her to Manifest, Kansas, to spend the summer while he works on the railroad.

When Abilene arrives in Manifest she tries to figure out why her father would send her to this small, dreary place to live with a man named “Pastor Shady.” Her father has told her a little about the bustling mining town filled with immigrants and colorful characters that he once lived in as a boy, but what she finds is a small community whose glory days died with the decline of the mines.

She makes two new friends and gets to know some of those colorful characters, such as Miss Sadie, the “diviner,” and Hattie Mae, whose “About Town” newspaper columns reveal tidbits from the town’s history. As Abilene begins to explore the town’s past in search of her father’s story, the novel moves from the Manifest of 1936, when Abilene arrives, to 1918, when her father lived there.

Vanderpool integrates symbolism into the story to help hold the story together. Abilene’s prized possession is her father’s compass, which never really shows a direction. The concepts of home and family are explored through the lives of the many immigrants that lived in Manifest in 1918, the two boys who become friends during that time and Abilene’s search for answers to her many questions.

About the Author: Clare Vanderpool

Struck by the Herman Melville quotation mentioned above, Clare Vanderpool began to think about the concept of a “true place.” For Vanderpool, it meant home and neighborhood. Vanderpool writes, “I wondered, what would a ‘true place’ be for someone who has never lived anywhere for more than a few weeks or months at a time? Someone like a young girl on the road during the Depression. Someone like Abilene.” (Source: www.clarevanderpool.com.
Clare Vanderpool’s highly praised novel is based on Frontenac, Kansas in southeast Kansas, the town where her grandparents lived. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Vanderpool lives in the same neighborhood where she grew up, within walking distance of her parents and sister. She began her book in 2001, finding time between the many activities of her four children and her own family and community activities to write Moon Over Manifest. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Moon Over Manifest: My Recommendation

As mentioned, I think Moon Over Manifest is an excellent book for tweens teens, ages 10-14. Not only is Moon Over Manifest a novel to be enjoyed by independent readers, it is also a novel that can be enjoyed as a family read aloud or shared in a fifth grade or middle school classroom. (Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010. ISBN: 9780385738835)

Jean Hatfield has experience as a children’s librarian, a school librarian, and a library administrator. She has served on the selection committee for major children’s book awards and is presently responsible for the selection of public library materials for youth – children and young adults – for the public library system in the largest city in Kansas, Wichita.

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