2011 Newbery Medal: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest is written by Clare Vanderpool. It was published in 2010 by Delacorte. It is a Newbery Medal book. Vanderpool’s website can be found here.

“Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories form the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. And as those secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.”

What I Liked:

Wow! I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but it certainly wasn’t this! The narration has a great interweaving between past and present, and the book isn’t so much about Abilene in 1936 as it is about Ned and Jinx and the town of Manifest in 1918.

I love the sort of “double blind” that Vanderpool plays on the reader here. As soon as Jinx shows up in Miss Sadie’s stories, I thought, “Yeah, I know who he is.” Then, when Abilene starts thinking that she knows who Jinx is, and pinning all her hopes on it, I thought, “Well, Jinx can’t be him now.” It’s a common plot trope to have the main character think one thing and then find out in the end that it’s something completely different. But then Vanderpool’s all “Psyche! You were right the first time!” and I thought, “Wow, you got me!” So, yeah, what I’m trying to say is that Vanderpool does some great things in terms of plot twists/revelations. Jinx’s was obvious, but the other I didn’t see coming at all.

Loved the newspaper articles included after the past history segments. Abilene didn’t explain the articles, either, even though the text makes it clear that us reading them is like her reading them. The reader has to piece it together, and it is wonderful.

What I Didn’t Like:

This is really just nitpicky, but at one point Abilene says something along the lines of “…then I’m the queen of England!” Was that a legit saying back then with the person just inserting “queen” or “king” as appropriate?

Rating: 5/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: A little bit of scary situations and details, war, and death.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic


“Well, say there was a spy. What do you think he was spying on?”

Lettie and I looked at Ruthanne. She rolled her eyes and gave a sigh, like she was disgusted to have to explain something so simple. I figured she was just stalling till she could think up an answer.

“There was a war going on, you know,” Ruthanne said.

We kept staring.

“And in wartimes there’s always secrets that need keeping from the enemy.”

Still staring.

“So what makes you think Manifest didn’t have a few secrets of its own that some spy might want to find out about?” Ruthanne asked.

~Vanderpool 43

Jinx placed the money on the bar and took a seat behind the counter next to Shady, his one sure ally in the room.

“We have bigger problems at hand,” Casimir Cybulskis said, resuming the discussion. “How to raise a thousand dollars without being noticed by Burton. It is impossible.”

The room erupted in a din of agreement. Then Shady had an idea. “From the look of things, the mine owners and bootleggers aren’t the only ones making money after all.” He fanned the stack of bills in front of him.

“What are you saying, Shady?” asked Hadley.

“I’m saying that this young man may have an idea that we would do well to listen to.”

“You’re not suggesting we take advice from a con artist?” Mrs. Larkin asked in horror.

“All I’m saying is drastic times call for drastic measures.”

~Vanderpool 192

Overall Review:

Moon Over Manifest is a delightful book where the stories told of the past are almost better than the present happenings. At one point I didn’t want to stop reading because I was so caught up in Miss Sadie’s tales. I also loved my waffling about Jinx due to Abilene’s certainty, which endeared this book to me more for some reason. This Newbery Medal is truly deserved.

You can buy this here: Moon Over Manifest

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