Monday, May 16, 2011

Moon Over Manifest, Clare Vanderpool

Title:  Moon Over Manifest
Author:  Clare Vanderpool
Publisher:  Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Year:  2010
Pages:  368
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Themes:  Family, Finding a Home, Community,War, Xenophobia
Age Range:  5th through 8th Grade

Summary: (from School Library Journal)
It's as if readers jump off the train in Manifest, KS, in 1936 with Abilene Tucker, 12, the feisty, likable, and perceptive narrator. She is there to live with Pastor Shady Howard, her father's friend, while her father works on the railroad back in Iowa. An equally important story set during World War I is artfully intertwined. Since her mother went off on her own 10 years earlier, Abilene and Gideon have been alone. Though their life together is unsettled, their bond is strong. Shady's place is shabby, but he is welcoming. The mystery about Manifest and Gideon unfolds after Abilene finds a box filled with intriguing keepsakes. It includes a letter dated 1917 to someone named Jinx from Ned Gillen that has a warning, “THE RATTLER is watching.” This starts Abilene, with the help of new friends Ruthanne and Lettie, on a search to learn the identity of the pair. The story cleverly shifts back and forth between the two eras. Abilene becomes connected to Miss Sadie, a “diviner” who slowly leads her through the story of Ned and Jinx. Though the girl is lonely, she adjusts to her new life, feeling sure that her father will come for her at summer's end.

This book won the Newbery Prize for children's literature last year, giving some indication of the quality of the writing in this book.  The narrative structure is interesting and engaging, and the story within a story device works well in this setting.  In many ways this book reminded me of books like Because of Winn Dixie-small town, spunky girl, eccentric older woman, slightly shady older man-but what makes this book unique is the focus on how the immigration question affected the midwest during the first part of the 20th century.  Not many people know that the Ku Klux Klan targeted immigrants as well as blacks, nor do most people truly understand the hold that the mining companies (and other large manufacturing companies) had on the workers and their families.  Throw in a short lesson on Prohibition and a long look at World War I, and this novel is a rich source of historical content for discussion and extension activities.

Teacher Resources:
Moon Over Manifest on eNotes 
Moon Over Manifest on Bookrags

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