"A house without books is like a room without windows." -Horace Mann

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moon Over Manifest

by Clare Vanderpool

I'm currently without a book, waiting for some on order at the library and chomping at the bit to have them arrive.  So in the meantime, I figured if I can't read a book at least I can write about a book.  My latest enjoyable read is a Newbery Medal winner, most of which are usually a safe bet for a good book.  This one is about a young girl named Abilene who is used to leading a somewhat transient life with her father.  But one summer he decides to work a railroad job and sends her to live in Manifest, Kansas, a small town that was once his home.  Abilene discovers many interesting characters in the town, all of them connected in some way to her father's mysterious past.  Some old letters and newspapers leads the entire town down forgotten roads to where old secrets are revealed and remembered.  Secrets about an old mining town, about sons gone off to war, and about moonshine during the prohibition. 

Vanderpool sets the place of this book well.  The town of Manifest is memorable and interesting, and feels authentic to the time.  She gives you just enough mystery to keep the pages turning, and one big twist at the end is completely unexpected.  I also enjoy the technique of writing a story within a story.  The author helps transition between the past and present by placing old newspaper articles within the story that connect bits and pieces and also gives you clues as you go along.  The voices of each character are distinct.  Perhaps this is all because the story is loosely based on an actual Kansas town and on historical documents, not to mention stories passed down through the author's family.  This story feels like it could be one my Grandpa told me around the campfire at a family reunion.

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