Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Thoughts: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
published 2010
368 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

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.

My thoughts:

May 17 - This is the 2011 Newbery Award winner, and since I want to read all the Newbery winners, I picked this one up when I saw it at the library. I have a feeling it will be a quick read, since it is geared toward mid-grade readers. So far, I am finding it to be a charming read, full of interesting characters and predicaments that would draw in a younger reader. I like Abilene, but find myself more interested in the chapters about Jinx - he just seems to be a more interesting, complex character. I have a suspicion about how this will all turn out, but I'm more than happy to go along for the ride and see where the story leads.

May 20 - What a lovely story. I grew to like Abilene more and more throughout the book - her curiosity and sense of adventure, as well as her willingness to try to make the best out of a bad situation. I thought the alternating sections telling the stories of Abilene and Jinx to be equally entertaining, and a good way to move the narrative forward. Both Jinx's story, set during the start of WWI, and Abiliene's story, set during the Great Depression, gave interesting insight into the lives of children during each period. There is a rather major plot point that involves making moonshine, so I can imagine some parents might not be comfortable with that particular story arc, but I found it to be appropriate to the characters and situation.

I enjoyed Vanderpool's writing style, and think young readers would have no trouble getting drawn into the story. I'm not sure they would quite comprehend all the emotional layers, but the simple themes of finding a place to belong and learning to forgive yourself would be clear.

"I thought I knew a thing or two about people. Even had my list of universals. But I wondered. Maybe the world wasn't made of universals that could be summed up in neat little packages. Maybe there were just people. People who were tired and hurt a lonely and kind in their own way and their own time." (page 144)

I enjoyed this one very much, and would recommend it for mid-grade readers. I think the story and historical setting make it a good choice, and the characters would keep them interested and engaged in the story. Very good!

Finished: 5/18/11
Source: South Side library
MPAA rating: PG for story arc involving making and distribution of moonshine
My rating: 8/10


bermudaonion said...

I've had this book for a while and actually transferred to my nightstand when it won the Newbery Medal, but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

Zibilee said...

This was one of the books I almost picked up from the Scholastic Book Sale last week, but for some reason, I passed it up. I might have to revisit it and add it to my cart after reading your review though. It might just be a book my kids and I could share. Great review! said...

I planned on buying this book for my daughter this week. I'm glad I got a chance to read your review. I will definitely be getting it now. Thanks.

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Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

My younger daughter keeps looking at this at the bookstore (the cover reminds her of an American Girl book ... one of the Addies, I think). She's too young for it (almost 9), but I may pick it up and read it myself.

Thank you for the thoughtful review!