Historical Fiction – Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest


Vanderpool, Clare. 2011. MOON OVER MANIFEST. Narration by Justine Eyre, Cassandra Campbell, and Kirby Heyborne. New York: Listening Library. ISBN 978-0307941930.

Plot Summary

Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is not at all happy to be left behind for the summer in Manifest, Kansas by her father Gideon, but times tough and he must try to find work. The story weaves beautifully between two time periods, Abilene’s time in 1936 with the backdrop of the Great Depression, and Gideon’s childhood in 1917 in the shadow of World War I. While the people of Manifest are very welcoming to her, Abilene quickly discovers there are long held secrets she is eager to unfold. The story alternates between Abilene’s naration, Miss Sadie “the diviner,” newspaper articles, and treasures from the past.

Critical Analysis

First time author Clare Vanderpool does a wonderful job exploring the themes of family, community, and belonging in this charming story. She also seamlessly weaves in historical facts and events from the Great Depression and World War I to provide the framework for Abilene’s time in Manifest.

Abilene is a tough and independent twelve-year-old girl who is upset when her father, Gideon, leaves her beind in Manifest so he can try to find work on the railroad. Gideon is the only family Abilene has known, although she has grown up hearing Gideon’s stories about life in Manifest. Abilene resigns herself to spending the summer there, after all she’s heard all about the town motto: “Manifest: A Town with a Rich Past and a Bright Future.” But when she jumps off the train all she sees is a “dried up old town.”

A hidden cigar box filled with trinkets and letters from the past changes Abilene’s view of the long summer ahead, and she quickly enlists her new friends Lettie and Ruthanne to help in unraveling the mysteries they hold. Miss Sadie is one of the people Abilene comes to know and she slowly shares stories from the past amidst the backdrop of World War I, Prohibition, the Ku Klux Klan and discrimination against immigrants. At first Abilene is annoyed with Miss Sadie for telling the truth in her own time, but is drawn into the tale and the teller: “As much as I had a need to hear her story, she had a need to tell it. It was as if the story was the only balm that provided any comfort”

I listened to this Audiobook as a download from Audible, and the listening time was 9 hours and 30 minutes. The unabridged version of this Newbery Award winning book had three narrators. The main narrator is Justine Eyre, with Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne sharing in the reading of newspaper articles and letters in the story. All three did an excellent job depicting the various characters voices and bringing to life the letters, stories, and articles from Hattie Mae’s Auxiliary, that help tell the story. The pace of the narration sets the tone for life in this small town and the readers voices embody Vanderpool’s imagery in bringing the two time periods alive with warmth and humor.

The audiobook concludes with the Author’s Note, which tells how Vanderpool wove together fact and fiction in writing the book. While the location is fictitious, it is based on a real town and some of the characters are based on people from the author’s family. She tells about her research into immigration, the Spanish flu, using newspapers and other sources from the time period.

The end of the book pulls together the many threads woven throughout the story for a heartwarming ending.

Review Excerpts

BOOKLIST starred review: “With believable dialogue, vocabulary and imagery appropriate to time and place, and well-developed characters, this rich and rewarding first novel is “like sucking on a butterscotch. Smooth and sweet.”

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “This thoroughly enjoyable, unique page-turner is a definite winner.”

KIRKUS REVIEWS: “The absolute necessity of story as a way to redemption and healing past wounds is at the heart of this beautiful debut, and readers will cherish every word up to the heartbreaking yet hopeful and deeply gratifying ending.”


Newbery Award, 2011

Kirkus Best Books for Children, 2010

Top 10 Best Kids Books, Historical Fiction – Instructor Magazine


  • Visit the author’s Web Site at www.clarevanderpool.com  to download Discussion Questions and the Author Question and Answer sheet. Use these tools to discuss the book and learn more about the author’s inspiration and research for the book.
  • Language Arts connection have students be a guest writer for Hattie Mae’s Auxiliary and write and publish an article based on something that interested them from the book.
  • Social Studies connection – Divide students into two groups and have each research an era from the book, World War I and the Great Depression, and share facts and stories from these time periods in history.
  • Books that explore World War I and the Great Depression: Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, and Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm.

Image from Barnes and Noble


About libraryloverleslie

I love libraries and books, most especially those for children and young adults. I’m a Children’s Librarian in the Pacific Northwest...living the dream!
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