Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Moon Over Manifest

Vanderpool, Clare. Moon Over Manifest.
After an alarming accident, Abilene is sent by her father, Gideon, to stay with a friend of his in Manifest, Kansas while he continues to try to make a living during the Great Depression. Shady is an odd choice of custodian for a young girl, since he runs the town saloon, but the other townspeople all get involved in Abiliene's care. After breaking something belonging to the local diviner, Miss Sadie, Abilene goes to work for the woman to pay for the damage, and gets involved in the story of the town years earlier, during World War I, a story which showcases many of the objects that she has found in a box at Shady's house. Much of the story involves a young boy, Jinx, and his friend Ned. Ned ends up going into the army, and Jinx comes up with a scheme to help the town buy a portion of land so that the local mine cannot. The scheme involves marketing a mixture of elixir and moonshine that proves effective against the deadly flu at the time. In order to carry out the production of this mixture, the town fakes a flu epidemic, is quarantined, and earns almost enough money to buy the land. Again, thanks to Jinx's intervention, the town triumphs, at least briefly. There are many tragedies still in store, and the town, as well as the people in it, are unable to triumph over all of them. Abilene learns a lot about her father, herself, and the town in this atmospheric historical novel.

Strengths: Even in the midst of an ice storm, I could feel the dry heat of Depression Era Kansas. Like another Newbery winner, Holes, this book layered a lot of elements into a thought-provoking and moving story.

Weaknesses: This reads more like an adult novel with a child protagonist. Nothing terribly interesting happened until page 215, when the town started their bootlegging operation. This is more of a book that teachers adore. Just not seeing the widespread appeal of this for younger readers.


  1. Moon Over Manifest just came in to the public library for me. I was pretty excited to read it, but now, maybe not...I HATE when the Newbery's like that :( Bummer.

  2. Although it does take a while to build some momentum, I thought this engaging book reads like a classic, with humor, suspense, triumph, and tragedy. Wonderful imagery transports the reader back in time and characters are crafted with such depth and detail that they almost come alive. It may be enjoyed most by fans of historical fiction, but it would also make a lovely read-aloud for a family.

  3. Oh, I adored MOON OVER MANIFEST. It was my favorite MG book of 2010. I reviewed it back in Sept. And yes, I see your point that it may appeal more to adults than children, but I suspect this is EXACTLY the kind of book I would have cherished at the age of 10 or 11.

    Thanks for following!