Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MOON OVER MANIFEST- Claire Vanderpool

Wrapping up the CYBILS nonfiction picture book nominees, and trying to participate in #bookaday with some of my Twitter friends. Spent a good chunk of yesterday (who needs to Christmas shop or wrap presents or clean house!) reading MOON OVER MANIFEST, a debut novel that I found at the library last week.

Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker, abandoned by her mother at the age of two, is more than a little confused when her father puts her on a train to Manifest, the small town in Kansas where he spent his adolescent years. Her first night in Manifest, Abilene finds a cigar box which contains a variety of seemingly unrelated trinkets- some letters between two friends named Jinx and Ned, a fishing lure, a nesting doll, a skeleton key, and several others. Later that week, she loses a compass given to her by her father, then sees it dangling from the porch of Miss Sadie, Manifest's gypsy/fortune teller. Miss Sadie will not give Abilene her precious compass until she "pays" for a pot broken during Abilene's attempts to reach her keepsake. As Abilene works, the gypsy tells her the stories of Jinx and Ned, the treasures from the cigar box, and the secrets of Manifest, which ultimately lead Abilene to some huge understandings of her father, Gideon.

This is a terrific read with lots of great characters to love. Abilene is a smart and plucky teenager, but she is also really missing her father, and wondering whether he will ever come back for her (she reminded me of many of the kids I know). Shady, the town pastor/bartender appears to battle his own alcohol demons, but takes in anyone who needs a friend. Miss Sadie first appears as kind of an evil old woman, but then actually ends up as, well, I'll let you read and figure that out for yourself.

Vanderpool is a masterful storyteller-- MOON was one of those books where I read it once for story, then went back again and tried to figure out how Vanderpool had crafted the novel. Half of the story, the part set in 1936, is told with Abilene at the center, but then the stories from Manifest's history (1918) are contained in chapters told by Miss Sadie. Vanderpol also uses newspaper clippings and medicine bottle labels, letters, and journals to complete the story. There is a little World War I history, information about the influenza epidemic of 1918, and a whole lot of big truths about the role story plays in our lives, and I found myself jotting notes throughout the book (I originally intended to use those as the basis of the review but then my computer crashed).

A great kickoff to #bookaday!

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