The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


March 27, 2011

Jeana Gockley, Book Review: Debut author pens compelling historical fiction

JOPLIN, Mo. — “Moon Over Manifest”

By Clare Vanderpool

Grades 4-8

 Abilene Tucker has spent the better part of her life hopping on and off trains with her drifter father, but during the summer of her 12th year, after he gets a job working for the railroad, he sends her to stay in his hometown of Manifest, Kan., with an old friend.

While there, Abilene intends to uncover information about her father’s childhood, because he never talks about it. But in the process she uncovers the story of the entire town and its secret past.

This historical fiction tale does double duty, with part of the story set in 1936 during the Great Depression, and the other in 1917 and 1918, during World War I. Debut author Clare Vanderpool, who lives in Wichita, Kan., uses letters and newspaper articles, and the character of a storytelling “diviner,” to weave the time periods together.

Complex themes — the Great Depression, WWI, the Ku Klux Klan, immigration and bootlegging — within the story might limit the appeal to the intended audience. However, readers will be drawn in by Abilene’s lively first-person narrative, the town’s cast of colorful characters and the beautiful way Vanderpool relates this award-winning novel.

Plus, with the help of the shiny 2011 Newbery Medal — the most prestigious award in children’s literature — gleaming on its cover, it’s sure to fly off library and bookstore shelves.

Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.

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