Skip to main content

Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool won the Newbery for 2011.  If it had not been recognized by that committee I probably wouldn't have read it because I'm actually pretty tired of Depression era novels.  This would have been too bad as the book is delightfully charming.
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.

Manifest is a town that has seen better days.  Although not nearly as bad off as some other midwestern towns during the Depression, the  people have lost hope and have little binding them together.  Abilene enters this atmosphere longing to find her father's footprints on the town and inquires of the "diviner", Miss  Sadie.  What she gets is the story of a boy named Jinx and the town of Manifest in 1918.  I confess that it was this story that kept me reading the book.  Miss Sadie paints a vivid picture of the town and life in small town America in the early 20th century.  There were times I couldn't help thinking of The Music Man, particularly as Jinx is quite the conman.  The characters of the town in 1918 were real and vivid, if  a tad cliche'.  It was them I was invested in and made me care about what happened to those who were still around in the 1936 portion of the story.  Jinx and Ned both captured my imagination the same way they did Abilene's.

Abilene's story was not quite as enjoyable to me.  I never really connected with her character  or cared much about what happened to her.  She is very much your typical middle grade Depression era novel heroine.  Spunky, street smart, missing at least one parent, living in a small town, looking to connect with her dad.  This story has been told so many times I am heartily sick of it.*  I found myself skimming the parts where the story focused on her for mention of the people from the 1918 story and to move on more quickly  to the next part of that.  It was almost as if her entire function was to be the vehicle for the older story making her a cypher.  Nothing about her was all that memorable.

I enjoyed Vanderpool's descriptive voice and use of language.

Overall I found the book charming and fun.  There are not that many books for middle graders that depict the World War I era well.  The fact that this is one separates it from the sea of other MG Depression era novels it might otherwise have been lost in.

*Seriously, one of the Newbery Honor books for this year, Turtle in Paradise, tells this same story.  That was two in one year, and they aren't the first two.  I find it interesting that everyone on the committee this year seems to have the same genre bias.  Four of the five books are historical fiction.  Three of those four are 20th century American.  Two out of those three are Depression era novels that play off the same tropes.  I prefer it when the committee has more diverse taste. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

TTT: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by  The Broke and the Bookish  and now hosted at  That Artsy Reader Girl . This Week's Topic: Most Recent Additions to My TBR List From Most Recent to Least: What books have recently caught your eye?

Favorite Kissing Scenes

When thinking of a favorite things post I could do for February I decided it would have to be kissing. I've already done couples and I was feeling in the mood to do something fluffy and Valentine's related. So kisses it is. I read more MG than YA, and the YA I read tends to not focus on romance so this was actually harder than I expected it to be though a few jumped into my head right away. (And one of my choices does actually come from a MG book. One is adult. Gasp!) The actual scene from the book is quoted followed by my thoughts. The king lifted a hand to her cheek and kissed her. It was not a kiss between strangers, not even a kiss between a bride and a groom. It was a kiss between a man and his wife, and when it was over, the king closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the hollow of the queen's shoulder, like a man seeking respite, like a man reaching home at the end of the day . - The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner Turner doesn't write the

Shadowshaper

Shadowshaper  by Daniel José Older is everywhere. Best of lists. Award buzz. Blogs everywhere. It's one of those books everyone is reading and talking about. I had it on my TBR but decided I definitely needed to read it before the year was out just so I could weigh in on one of the most talked about books of 2015 if asked. It is deserving of every good thing said about it. Every. One. Sierra was looking forward to a relaxing summer break. Her plans involved hanging out with her friends and painting. They did not involve being chased by zombie like creatures and threatened by a magical power connected to her family's heritage she has never heard of. When murals begin fading all over her Brooklyn neighborhood, Sierra is perplexed. When her grandfather, who had a stroke, begins to apologize and starts repeating strange phases and insisting Sierra get the help of a boy she barely knows to help her finish her mural, Sierra is concerned but mostly about her grandfather. Then at a

Jinx's Fire

I have been a big fan of Jinx and company from the very first book, which felt like such a perfect Brandy book. The conclusion of Sage Blackwood's trilogy, Jinx's Fire , finished the story beautifully and is definitely my favorite of the three. Spoilers for first two books abound. Read those first: Jinx Jinx's Magic The Urwald is in danger from more than one direction and has no hope of defending itself if there is not unity amongst the people. Jinx, Sophie, Elfwyn, Wendell, and a dedicated group of others are working to make this happen as quickly as they can. Time is running out. At the same time, they are still dealing with the threat of the Bonemaster from within, and the Urwald's magic is fading. Where is it going? Can it be restored? And where has the Bonemaster put Simon? Jinx is the only one who can find the answers to these questions, and harnass the Urwald's power to save them all, but only if he is willing. Jinx has some serious attitude in this

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak  by Robert Beatty is a thrilling tale of mystery and adventure set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC in 1899. Having lived in Asheville and visited the house several times, there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to read this. (Also it's MG fantasy, always a bonus for me.) Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Vanderbilt's spacious vacation home. She has lived there most of her life. Her father worked on the house as it was being built and is the mechanic who runs the massive generator and keeps the electricity going. Serafina is the chief rat catcher, slipping through the halls of her massive home secretly and quietly. She is light on her feet, sees well in the dark, and is quick enough to catch the vermin and keep them out. Serafina knows she if different and strange. Her father insists she stay hidden. But all that changes when one night Serafina witnesses a horrible crime. A little girl, a guest in the house, is fleein