Moon Over Manifest
Clare Vanderpool
2010
Newbery Medal

How cool would it be to write your very first book and have it win an award? Well, it happened to Clare Vanderpool. Actually, it happens to a surprising number of folks. That may explain why this book isn’t as polished as I felt it could be. Nonetheless, it’s an engaging read. I knew it had won the Newbery when I read it, and that always makes me expect to be blown away. Which I wasn’t.

Manifest is essentially about a girl who’s struggling to understand her roots, get reconnected with her father, and solve a mystery that occurred before her time. It covers both Depression era as well as WWI era. Twelve-year-old Abilene is a likable enough and spunky heroine (she was almost spunky in a cliche-d sort of way). The rest of the cast is also entertaining and fairly well developed. Speakeasies, the KKK, immigration, miners–they all get treatment in this charming story. I found the “Rattler” element a bit distracting and underwhelming, but in general Manifest is a good read.

Recommended: middle-upper elementary school; middle school

Things to Note/Discuss

  • alcohol is definitely present in this story, but the children don’t engage in drinking. However, some of the more likable characters do things like run a speakeasy. One thing that comes through in this story, though, is the way we can misjudge other people–they might be caring and self-sacrificing even though they are engaging in an activity of which we don’t approve. So, what’s our response in that situation?
  • How do people misjudge others in this story?
  • Prejudice against a group of people causes hurt. What are the different groups that get mistreated in this book as a result of prejudice? Did the KKK only target Southern blacks?
  • What would it be like to be an immigrant to another country? What would you miss most from your home/life right now?
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