|Cover artist||Richard Tuschman|
|Genre||Children's literature, Historical fiction|
|May 2, 1995|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|LC Class||PZ7.P28393 Mo 2010|
Moon Over Manifest is a 2010 children's novel written by American author Clare Vanderpool. The book was awarded the 2011 Newbery Medal for excellence in children's literature, the Spur Award for best Western juvenile fiction, and was named a Kansas Notable Book. The story follows a young and adventurous girl named Abilene who is sent to Manifest, Kansas by her father in the summer of 1936. The author's note at the end of the book states that the fictional town of Manifest, Kansas, is based on the real town of Frontenac, Kansas.
The main character in the book is Abilene Tucker, a nice, adventurous girl from 1936. Her father sent her to a small town called Manifest, Kansas while he worked a railroad job somewhere else. She arrived there to find that it was run-down and greatly affected by the Great Depression. A pastor took her in, and in that house, she discovered a box of mementos and letters stashed away under a floorboard. One letter mentioned the "Rattler," someone Abilene and her two friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, believed was a German spy in 1918. After some investigating, they received a note telling them to "leave well enough alone." Realizing that she had lost her father's compass while searching for the spy, Abilene walked down the Path to Perdition to search for it and accidentally broke a diviner's pot. To pay off her debt and earn her compass back from the diviner, Abilene did odd jobs for her. For example, she tilled dry soil during a drought, planted seeds in it, and hunted for strange plants, all of which seemed to have no useful purpose.
Sensing that Abilene was feeling abandoned by her father, the diviner told her a story of the past about two boys in Manifest in 1918 called Jinx and Ned. Jinx was a twelve-year-old con artist who left his partner after thinking he accidentally killed a man, and Ned was a fifteen-year-old boy who used Jinx's skills to sign up for the army underage. At the time, the town was controlled by the owners of the mine because there were no jobs or money without them during the war; the owners paid the poor workers very little and forced them to work more shifts, or else they'd be fired.
After a land-owning man died, the mine owners desired that piece of land for their own profit. However, the town had first pick, and they needed to raise $1,000 for it before the deadline. They didn't want the mine owners to know about it, or else they'd give them more work and also stop them from raising the money, so everyone feigned illness and put the town under quarantine to get rid of the mine owners. They sold a healing elixir and raised most of the money, but someone revealed their plans to the mine owners, causing them to return and put everyone back to work.
A government official, the nephew of a resident of Manifest, tricked one of the mine owners into buying part of the land up for sale because of the "healing spring" he could use to make a fortune. However, it was regular water, and the tax he paid for the land went to the town, giving them enough money to buy the rest of the land. Soon afterwards, the fooled man sold his part of the land for a fraction of the cost he paid for it. The town celebrated their triumph, only to be disappointed by news of the death of the well-known Ned. Jinx found out that his partner killed the man before and that he wasn't a killer himself, but his parents died, and he also thought it was his fault that Ned was killed by the Germans. He left Manifest for good.
Abilene heard the story and matched the letters and mementos she had to the story the diviner told her. She put the pieces together and discovered that Jinx was her father; when she got a cut and became very ill, her father began acting differently around her because he thought it was his fault, which it wasn't That was the reason he left her in Manifest. After sending a telegram to her father, feigning ill herself, she discovered that the Rattler was a story someone made up after seeing a nun and her rattling rosary in the woods at night. The "spy" they happened to find was the undertaker, the person who had revealed the town's trick to the mine owners almost twenty years ago. He was afraid that the kids had found out about that, so he sent them the note to scare them. Abilene's father returned to Manifest and found that his daughter wasn't ill, and after she told him about knowing about his past, he understood her when she asked him to stay.
Moon Over Manifest has been received favorably. Kirkus Reviews described it as "richly detailed, splendidly written", while Publishers Weekly saw a "memorable coming-of-age story" and "Replete with historical details and surprises, Vanderpool's debut delights, while giving insight into family and community."Common Sense Media called it "a nostalgic, robust story".Booklist found it "like sucking on a butterscotch. Smooth and sweet."School Library Journal said that "thoroughly enjoyable, unique page-turner [Moon Over Manifest] is a definite winner."