I’ve just finished reading the latest Newbery winner: Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. This excellent and readable novel toggles back and forth between the years 1918 and 1936. It relates the stories of Abilene Tucker and her father, Gideon and how Abilene learns more about her father’s life as a young man in Manifest, Kansas during World War I. Times are tough in 1936 when Abilene is twelve. Gideon is a good man, but also a drifter and a con man, using his wits to survive very tough times. He and his daughter struggle to survive during the Depression so in the summer of 1936 he sends her off to the town and people he knows best. She meets up with those who knew him best and since he never talked to Abilene about his growing up years, so she longs to find a connection to him through the people she meets in Manifest.
The quirky but believable characters are wonderfully fleshed out. They are so well described that you would recognize them if they walked up to you and said “hi”. The storyline is well-plotted and well-told. Vanderpool presents the characters’ stories in such a way that you find out just a little about them each time as if the author is slowly unwinding their lives for view. This would appeal to both boys and girls – it takes historical fiction, adventure and mystery and rolls them all up into one wonderful yarn. It would make a wonderful family read-aloud. I highly recommend it.