Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
What drew me in right away was the voice of Abilene Tucker, the book’s spunky, curious, and honest young narrator for the present line of action. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, Vanderpool thanks her grandparents, whose voices were in her head while writing: “Their voices and their stories, which I heard as a young girl, are the heart and soul of this book” (349). It is a book that begs to be read aloud. The voice sweeps the reader into the world, and it is not long before Abilene seems like a friend we know well.
In addition, I was greatly impressed by the way Vanderpool weaves history into a highly engaging narrative. By choosing to set the “present” storyline of action in 1936, and the past in 1918, Vanderpool is able to paint a vivid portrait of two distinct periods in U.S. history. In the 1936 storyline, Abilene thinks of 1918 as being in the distant past; for today’s young readers, who likely think of both 1918 and 1936 as a blurred "looong time ago," this subtly pushes them to consider the many different periods of the past, and that their grandparents and great-grandparents were once children like Abilene (and readers themselves.) The historical framework is reinforced by Vanderpool's choice to use newspaper clippings and letters home from World War I to tell the story in addition to a more straightforward narrative.
Other books by Clare Vanderpool: "Navigating Early" is forthcoming
Themes/motifs: the importance and healing powers of storytelling; collective memory; love of family and friends; home is “not down on any map; true places never are”; history: World War I, Great Depression, Prohibition/Temperance Movement, immigration, mining community, small town life
Teaching idea: Ask students to become historians themselves by writing down an oral history narrative, much as Abilene does in the novel. They could talk to their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even visit a nursing home and talk to residents there. What was life like for them as children? What are some funny stories they remember from growing up? Ask students to write one of these stories down, as if they are Miss Sadie divining the past, or Abilene piecing together the information she hears about Jinx/Gideon.
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