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

Shorter Musings MG Fantasy

Here are some shorter musings on recent MG fantasy reads. Anya and the Dragon   by Sofiya Pasternack This book is fun. It is a book full of adventure, an obvious bad guy, some more complicated morally gray area characters, and a strong, brave heroine. It is also a book about friendships, community, and fighting for what is right. All things that usually work for me really well. While I enjoyed this, I did feel it was a little overlong and there were certain plot points at the end I didn't love. However, there were things I thought were done really well, such as Anya's Jewish faith and the idea that power needs to be challenged. In the end it was a middle of the road read for me, but it is one I will certainly be recommending to dragon and fantasy adventure lovers I know! R is for Rebel   by J. Anderson Coats This is tough because I usually really like Coats's books. I had such a hard time with this one though on so many levels. It's difficult to get into because t

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?

Future Favorite Friday: June 2018

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments. Two Naomis  was one of my favorite reads of 2016 so I was understandably excited it's getting a sequel.  In this sequel to  Two Naomis , now that Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi E.’s dad are married, the girls have learned to do a lot of things together, like All-Family Sunday dinners, sixth-grade homework, navigating the subway system by themselves, and visiting their favorite bakeries. Until sixth grade in a new school presents a whole new set of surprises and challenges. Trusting her gut has worked for Naomi E. all her life, and she figures that it will be an asset to her role as a Peer Mediator—until she realizes how much of the job requires the Art of Compromise, which she’s only just starting to get used to at home. Naomi Marie i

The Reece Malcolm List

The Reece Malcolm List by Amy Spalding surprised me. Enough people I trust enjoyed it so I knew I would like it, but wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do. It is a really great book that is fun and has real heart and soul too. Synopsis: Things I know about Reece Malcolm: 1. She graduated from New York University. 2. She lives in or near Los Angeles. 3. Since her first novel was released, she’s been on the New York Times bestseller list every week. 4. She likes strong coffee and bourbon. 5. She’s my mother. Devan knows very little about Reece Malcolm, until the day her father dies and she’s shipped off to live with the mother she’s never met. All she has is a list of notebook entries that doesn’t add up to much. L.A. offers a whole new world to Devan—a performing arts school allows her to pursue her passion for show choir and musicals, a new circle of friends helps to draw her out of her shell, and an intriguing boy opens up possibilities for her first love. But the

Ash & Bramble

I have established that I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings. You know what else I love? Books written by Sarah Prineas. Both her MG series are great favorites of mine. When she happened to mention on Twitter long ago that she was working on a YA, I followed closely eager to read whatever the result was. Ash & Bramble  is a fabulous work of genius. (I consider Sarah a friend as well as an author I love, and she sent me the ARC I'm reviewing here.) Pin lives in the Godmother's fortress sewing clothes with the other seamstresses tasked with producing the beautiful one of a kind ballgowns the Godmother uses for her mysterious purposes. Pin has no memories of her life prior to the day she begins her work as a slave to the Godmother's will. Everything that came before is a blank nothing. While she has no memories, she is still a person with a will and a fierce defiance to live her own life. She gets a chance to plan an escape when she is used as a foot model for