Augusta Scattergood is back as my guest blogger today. And she's brought with her a review of this year's Newbery Award winner, MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpoole. I'm thrilled to say she's also snagged an interview with Clare. Drop back by on Monday for that sweet treat!
This year’s Newbery winner took a lot of people by surprise. It shouldn’t have. Everything that gold medal stands for is right there inside this novel. An adventure story and a mystery, the book interweaves letters from the First World War with musings from the society page of a local newspaper. The Ku Klux Klan makes an ominous appearance as does a conjurer, a preacher, and one of the most intriguing heroines to appear in historical fiction since Calpurnia Tate.
Young Abilene Tucker has been sent by her father to Manifest, Kansas, for the summer. Or so she thinks. Manifest is a town with history, with her own father’s history to be precise. He’s sent her there to stay with a sometimes preacher named Shady Howard. Eventually, Abilene decides she’ll just make the best of it.
She’s hardly picked herself up from a jump off the train before she’s face to face with a pathway called Perdition. Turns out, Manifest, Kansas is nothing like the stories her father told. “I tried to conjure up something smooth and sweet from those stories, but looking around, all I could muster was dry and stale. Up and down Main Street, the stores were dingy. Gray. Every third one was boarded up.”
And that’s Abilene’s introduction to the place she’s destined to spend more than a summer exploring. A broken pot leads her down the Path to Perdition where she meets Miss Sadie. Miss Sadie, the local fortune teller and potent maker, has found Abilene’s treasured compass, and the young girl schemes her way into Miss Sadie’s stories, hoping not only to retrieve the compass but to learn what connection her father had to this Kansas town. As a mystery unravels and Miss Sadie’s reveries unfold, Abilene digs deeper into Manifest’s history. But the harder she— and her new friends— delve, the less they seem to discover and the less it all seems to make sense. Even worse, Abilene is no closer to discovering her father here.
The time is the Depression, 1936, but Vanderpool’s skillful plotting takes the story back to 1917 via newspaper articles and remembered stories. This complicated novel, remarkably, ties the story up so that in the end young readers will see the connections. While they might need grounding in the time period to understand all the threads that run through the story, that should never keep a good student from enjoying the sheer mystery and adventure of MOON OVER MANIFEST, this year’s Newbery winner.
Thanks so much, Augusta! I'm reading Moon Over Manifest myself right now. I love reading about the first half of the 20th century in the US and I look forward to making the conections in this story! Kind of you not to include spoilers!