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.
Moon Over Manifest strikes me as a children's book animated by an expressly adult sentiment: nostalgia for a simpler past. The Newbery award committee obviously related to this powerful emotion, but does its intended audience of fifth to eighth graders? Vanderpool calls upon a kind of a sepia-tinged longing for a very recent past which seems just out of reach. I'm not sure that young readers naturally feel that emotion, but perhaps the point of the book is to teach them this, to make them curious about the past and how it has created us, to nudge them into realizing that the past is retrievable, with just a little detective work and literary imagination. (Reviewed by Amy Reading).
Alternately set between World War I and The Great Depression, the story is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and sometimes poignantly sad, but page after page, it is hard to put down.
School Library Journal
This thoroughly enjoyable, unique page-turner is a definite winner. Grades 5-8.
Starred Review. With believable dialogue, vocabulary and imagery appropriate to time and place, and well-developed characters, this rich and rewarding first novel is 'like sucking on a butterscotch. Smooth and sweet.'
Starred Review. Readers will cherish every word up to the heartbreaking yet hopeful and deeply gratifying ending.
Starred Review. Replete with historical details and surprises, Vanderpool's debut delights, while giving insight into family and community.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Lynn Wonderful story This book was recommended to me by the librarian at the k-8 school where I worked. It was new and she wanted an opinion. I loved it - a great story about a young girl living in a new town where she knows no one - not to mention that her family... Read More
Rated of 5
by KK Great! I loved it!!!! It was the best book that I think I have read in yyears!! I recommend to all. Friends and FAMILY!!!!!
Moon Over Manifest began as a story the author clearly needed to hear. Her inspiration was a line in Moby Dick that also influences Abilene: "It is not down in any map; true places never are."
On her website Vanderpool explains, "That really sparked my imagination. What is a true place? It conjured up ideas of home. Having lived most of my life in the same neighborhood, place is very important and for me true places are rooted in the familiar the neighborhood pool, the sledding hill, the shortcuts, all the places where memories abound. But 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?"
She based Manifest on the town of Frontenac, Kansas, where her mother's parents, Noah and Mary (Hughes) Rousseau, and her grandfather's cousins, Velma and Ivan DeVore, grew up. All four are minor characters in the story.
She wrote the story over five or six years while raising her four children, snatching time during their naps, episodes of "Sesame...
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