Book Review: Moon Over Manifest

It’s been a while since I wrote a book review. Mostly, I think that is because I’ve been less than thrilled with the books I’ve read. Last last week that changed. I’ve been moving a lot of books which has given me the chance to see what I have that I never read or what I have that I would consider reading again. It’s funny when you have to make decisions about giving something away or keeping it, clarity arrives just on time.

Saved books have included the Harry Potter series and the Freddy the Hamster series. I’m still on the fence about Charlie Bone and Narnia series. Some other books such as the Limoney Snicket series went to a fourth-grade teacher I know and used to substitute for when she taught second grade. They were all gratefully received as well as some books on phonics instruction and creative writing with 3-5 grade students.

A book I found in the pile I designated to read was Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, published in 2010. This was a book that I bought on recommendation from one of my boy’s 6th grade language arts teachers. When my middle son when to middle school, I volunteered in her classroom and ended up doing so for the next three years. I cannot remember whether she used the book as a read aloud or if we just got to talking about books and she recommended it to me. In any case, Moon over Manifest has been on my “to-read” bookshelf for far too long.

The story takes place in Manifest Kansas in 1936 with a twelve year old protagonist named Albilene. Due to life’s circumstances, Albilene is a tough, no nonsense type of girl who surprisingly ends up hearing some of the town’s history from a mysterious woman, Sadie, who claims she is a diviner. Abilene is trying to find both herself and where she fits as well as her father, his past, and where he might be now. The big question is why send her off to Manifest to live with people she didn’t know because that is exactly what he did.

The story has Abilene meeting many a town folk both through Sadie’s stories of the past (1916-1918) and old newspaper articles. Moon over Manifest is conveniently set in the summer of 1936 starts as Albilene makes some new friends when she shows up for her first day school on the last day! She finds a cigar box full of trinkets that guide both her curiosisty and the stories she gets from Sadie.

It was a tumultuous time and life in Manifest (a fictional town based on a real place) was fraught with problems. There’s prohibition, secret elixers, coal mining, labor rights, greed, and of course a war raging in Europe as the book flips to the past. The characters are easy to get to know and the story demands that you finish it to see if what Abilene has a hunch about is correct at the end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. My husband is reading it now. We both read books meant for middle school or high school students. Sometimes, as in this case, the book ends up being much more enjoyable than a piece of popular adult ficiton (which seems formulary to me lately). The genre is historical fiction and Vanderpool won the 2011 Newberry Medal for the novel. I will keep it and read it again. Thanks, Mrs. D., for the recommendation!

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