Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest by Clare VanderpoolMoon Over Manifest is a children’s fiction novel that appeals to all readers who enjoy adventure in a true American historical setting. This first novel written by Clare Vanderpool won the John Newbery Medal for excellence in children’s literature in 2011. However, adults, too, can savor the first-person account of young Abilene Tucker literally jumping from a life of riding the rails with her father into intrigue and challenge in Manifest, Kansas in 1936. With eccentric characters like “The Rattler,” a menacing spy; Miss Sadie, a mysterious Hungarian diviner; or Pastor Shady Howard, who takes Abilene into his home at her father’s request, there is much for the reader to relish as the story unfolds.

There are several storylines in the novel. Besides Abilene’s story, there is one of a boy named Jinx who faces bigotry and prejudice in 1917 Manifest. Another is the rise and decline of Manifest itself. Miss Sadie, whose home lies at the end of the “Path to Perdition,” over time discloses the story of Jinx and Manifest to Abilene. Abilene’s discovery of letters, mementos and newspaper clippings also lead to the recognition of who Jinx becomes.

I enjoyed the book very much for its rhythms and pacing, its historical atmosphere, and its unfolding mysteries. There is hope and humor as Abilene perseveres in her efforts to understand her father. She thinks he has abandoned her, and she yearns to feel connected to family. Abilene makes friends, accepts people in all their diversity, and treasures what she discovers. She, as well as Jinx earlier, begins to belong to Manifest, this tired, but worthy, town.

This novel has been a selection of both youth and adult book clubs. You may well enjoy this story of loss and devotion set in a captivating time and place in America’s history.

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