Book Review: Moon Over Manifest

Author: Clare Vanderpool

Publisher: Delacourt Press

Copyright date: 2010

Pages: 347

Format: Childrens/Middle Readers

Reason for Reading: It just won the prize a month ago.

Rating: B+

Awards Won: The Newberry Medal, 2011

It’s 1936 and twelve-year-old Abilene finds herself in Manifest, Kansas for the summer. Abilene and her dad have moved around a lot, just trying to survive. With the Great Depression times are tough everywhere. But now, Abilene’s dad sends her to stay with his old friend Shady while he takes a railroad job. She’s not even sure he’ll come back for her at the end of the summer.

But, one night Abilene finds a cigar box hidden under a loose floorboard in her bedroom. Inside the box she finds some small mementos, a spy map, and a stack of old letters that mention a local spy named The Rattler. This is just what Abilene needed to spark her interest in the people of this hot and dusty little town.

Soon Abilene makes friends with Lettie and Ruthanne. The three girls are off on a secret mission to find the spy known as The Rattler. They know they are on the right track when a notice is attached to the tree house. It says: Leave Well Enough Alone. Of course, the girls are even more determined to solve this mystery.

Abilene is reluctant but willing to call upon Miss Sadie, the reclusive older woman who lives behind the wrought-iron gate that says “Road to Perdition.” The house looks very strange and Abilene is scared. She’s been told that Miss Sadie is a gypsy fortune-teller.

Abilene discovers that Miss Sadie is actually a diviner, a person who has the ability to read nature. It seems to Abilene that Miss Sadie can also read her mind. It is from Miss Sadie’s storytelling abilities that Abilene learns the meaning of the items in the hidden cigar box. The letters in the box, from Ned to Jinx, parallel the stories Miss Sadie tells.

From Miss Sadie’s stories, the clues, and a bit of sleuthing, Abilene and her friends are able to solve the mystery behind all the secrets in the letters, the mementos, and in the town of Manifest itself. By the end of the summer Abilene is able to come to terms with her own personal questions as well.

Chapters in Moon Over Manifest alternate between the happenings in 1936 and 1918. They are told from Abilene’s perspective as well as the narrative of Miss Sadie’s stories. Interspersed are columns from the local newspaper and letters from Ned to Jinx. The technique works well. It keeps the story moving quickly.

I don’t think it was meant to be humorous or nostalgic but that’s how I saw it. Middle readers, however, will probably see it as good historical fiction with a touch of mystery and adventure thrown in. I recommended it to my 12-year-old granddaughter. I have a hunch she’ll like it. My only negative was that part of the ending seemed just a little bit too pat. It’s a minor part and shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying this story.

Moon Over Manifest won the The Newberry Medal for 2011. “The Medal is awarded annually by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year.  The Newbery Award became the first children’s book award in the world. Its terms, as well as its long history, continue to make it the best known and most discussed children’s book award in this country.” (From the ALA website.)

I’m sure you can find Moon Over Manifest at most local libraries. Check also your local bookseller. It’s available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)

About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Fiction, Posts by Margot, YA and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Book Review: Moon Over Manifest

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I’ve had this on my nightstand ever since it won the Newbery Medal. I had a discussion with a librarian about it and she said its selection was a little bit controversial. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it so much.

  2. I love Newbery winners. And I love “pat” endings! So this should be perfect for me!

  3. drbethnolan says:

    I am reading this now. I love it! I’m halfway through…

  4. I’m not a huge fan of pat endings, but this sounds intriguing. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!!

  5. Annie says:

    You give me the urge to read children’s book !

    • Margot says:

      It’s okay Annie – give in to your urge. Although it’s written for children, it felt like an adult novel. I promise it won’t make you feel childish.

  6. Kay says:

    Wasn’t another year’s Newberry choice controversial recently? Or am I dreaming that? I think this one sounds charming and I’ve put it on hold at my library. Thanks for sharing, Margot!

    • Margot says:

      You’re welcome Kay. I wish I knew where to go to dig up the controversy stuff. I always like knowing the juicy tidbits. Librarians: any clue as to where to start?

    • jehara says:

      Are you thinking of is The Higher Power of Lucky. It won in 2006. Controversy over the use of the word scrotum on the first page. She described a rattlesnake biting a dog’s scrotum.
      I read it in 2007. I really enjoyed it.

  7. Cath says:

    I shall be recommending this to my grand-daughter. She’s ten but reads extremely well – I assume the content would be okay for a ten year old (eleven in June)? It does sound delightful.

    • Margot says:

      Cath, This is definitely approved for ten-year-olds. It has that what-I-did-on-my-summer-vacation feel to it – in a good way. I tried to imagine myself as a child while reading this book and it worked. I remember the excitement of finding little treasures and imagining all this involved in some world-wide plot. And, of course, having the whole summer to sneak around and spy on the adults. Yes, very appealing to the child in me and I think many that really are children.

  8. I tend to be more forgiving of pat endings in YA fiction at that age I really wanted books to end well and didn’t need complex endings. I like that you found it humorous and nostalgic, makes me want to read it even more.

  9. kaye says:

    this one is going on my list–nice review. I like this feature.

  10. I enjoy coming-of-age novels and this sounds a bit like one. I’ve found many YA novels are fine for adult reading! I will try to find this one at the Library.

    • Margot says:

      Thanks Sallie for pointing out the coming-of-age aspect to the story. It does have that feel to it. Yes, I agree. Lots of adults read YA. I think we can relate just fine to the stories.

  11. Margot says:

    Thanks for the website link ( There are lots of good books there with flimsy reasons for being banned. I also have a rebellious streak in me: If someone tells me I can read a book, that’s the very one I want to read. If I weren’t working on the award books and lots of other challenges, it would be a great project to work my way down the list of most banned books. I think I might check that list and see if any of them have won awards.

    • izzybella says:

      There’s a smart-alec who lives inside me that wants to review these banned books from the perspective of someone who’s entire life was ruined, JUST ruined by them. For example I led a normal life until I read Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. After that I ran away from the only home I’d ever known and sailed down the Mississippi with my n****r Jim. Jim tought me that some white folk just as dark on the inside as they’s n*****s be on the outside. I fell into a depression but just as things started looking bad I met a couple of actors who was gonna class me up with Shakespeare only it turns out actors is even worse then n*****s. And then…I died.

      Or that time when I read Are You There God It’s Me Margaret which taught me that God loves Jewish people and certain bust enhacement exercises work wonders which helps when you play spin the bottle and wind up in a closet with the cutest boy at school and he feels you up and then you get pregnant and you die.

      Or how I was reading harry potter and so i bought myself a wand (well i didn’t buy it i cut off the oak tree in the back yard) and started slinging spells around willy-nilly and i was chasing my brother around and tried to aveda kedavra me only i was holding up a mirror in case of loose basilisks so he wound up AK’ing himself. So I didn’tdie with that one, but I totally got a new playstation out of it.

      Yay for fine literature.

  12. stacybuckeye says:

    Thanks for the review, Margot. I know I probably won’t read this award winner, but now I feel as though I did 🙂

  13. Staci says:

    I just recently recommended this one to a MS student…hopefully, she’ll enjoy it too! 😀

  14. Irene says:

    I just finished this book on my nook. I stumbled across it as it was one of the few available that I could check out from the library. What a wonderful story. YA is such a wonderful genre for great books. I am going to recommend this one for my 12 year old granddaughter.

  15. Pingback: Where Izzybella & the Quirky Girls Get Serious About Blogging and Stuff |

  16. darkuchiha says:

    i have read this book and it was i have to do a presentation about it..i did enjoy how the story was built.

  17. Pingback: My Favorite Award-Winners From 2011 |

  18. jayydreamer says:

    Reblogged this on jayydreamer and commented:
    I’m in the middle of reading this book for my book report, it’s really good (:

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