I would love to be the kind of person who is able to read the Newberry winner right away or even better, to have already read it before the announcement. But let's face it, I have a busy life with family, school and all the other books on my stack(s). There is a certain amount of guilt involved as a librarian until you've read the Newberry there. Ahhhh. I feel so much better now and I know the committee made a worthy choice.
When this one was announced it wasn't even on my radar so I quickly ordered it for my school and then, let it languish around the library. One day in trying to model good reading to a class I picked it out of a stack and started reading while I wandered among the fourth grade students. I was hooked.
Abilene's voice is strong, clear and interesting. Here she is getting ready to jump off the train:
At the last car, I waited, listening the way I'd been taught-wait till the clack of the train wheels slows to the rhythm of your heartbeat. The trouble is my heart speeds up when I'm looking at the ground rushing by. Finally, I saw a grassy spot and jumped. The ground came quick and hard, but I landed and rolled as the train lumbered on without a thank-you or goodbye. (3)
Summary from GoodReads:
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.
Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption.
The last sentence says it all...It is a powerful tale! It is a gripping story! One of the reasons I love historical fiction is because there's a lot to learn while reading and I AM a life-long learner at heart. This story is special because you get two sets of histories; Abilene's in 1936 and her father's in 1918, which Abilene begins to understand as she tries to piece together her father's part in Manifest's history. The result is back and forth storytelling brought on by one of my favorite characters, Miss Sadie, a soothsayer or fortune-telling woman of Manifest. As Miss Sadie tells her remembrances a beautiful picture of Manifest is created for Abiline and her friends.
If you haven't had a chance to read this award-winner take the time as it is richly written.
To find this book at an independent bookseller near you, click on the title, Moon Over Manifest