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Moon Over Manifest – Clare Vanderpool

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Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Publisher: Yearling

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.

Moon Over Manifest is set in depression-era Kansas and told through the eyes of 12 year old Abilene. Since her mother up and left when Abilene was two, Abilene has been jumping trains and wandering the land with her father Gideon. After an accident, Gideon realizes that the road is no place for a maturing young lady, and sends her to his hometown of Manifest where Shady, the local pastor-come-bootlegger, gives her a home.

Through the discovery of a box of mementos, daily tales from Miss Sadie the local diviner, a pile of old letters, and Hattie Mae’s newspaper columns from 1918, Abilene pieces together her father’s place in the history of Manifest, and pieces together a sense of home in the process.

Abilene’s voice drew me in from the very first sentence and captivated me throughout. The story presents a lot of questions in the beginning and the answers unfold slowly through the course of the story.

The author Clare Vanderpool has woven some wonderful symbolism into the story, such as the broken compass which points in no particular direction, the tilling and sewing of seeds into a parched earth, and the festering wound on the diviner’s leg.

There is a sense of community among the diverse immigrants which was eroded by tragedy and regained through the story as it draws to its hugely satisfying ending.

Clare Vanderpool was awarded the 2011 John Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest for “distinguished contribution to literature for children.” The award was well deserved.

4.5 stars

Reviewer: Jodie Brownlee

When Jodie’s not writing about adventures, she’s having her own. As a traveler she’s crossed the Rajasthan desert on a camel, plied jungles on an elephant, driven a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka, visited a witch doctor in Africa, and parachuted from an old Cessna. She grew up in Australia, lived in London and now calls the Rocky Mountains home. You can visit Jodie at her blog and website.

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