What I liked about this book: I, like most people, had never heard of Moon Over Manifest before it won the Newbery. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I liked the two storylines of Abilene and Jinx, and I love how Abilene slowly figures out who Jinx actually is. I loved all of the characters. My favorite may have been the shady minister/bartender. I found myself feeling like a citizen of manifest, or at least a long-term visitor like Abilene.
What I disliked about this book: There wasn’t much about this book that I didn’t like. Maybe it was a little longer than it needed to be? I really feel silly looking for something to criticize. Vanderpool did a great job with this book.
Did it deserve the Newbery?: Yes. No doubt about it.
Why?: Why not? It’s a great book. There was nothing in 2010 (until I read Moon Over Manifest) that I thought should win the 2011 Newbery. Out of My Mind may have come close, but I thought that was stretching it. I’m glad that the Newbery committee read more children’s books then I did in 2010. They brought a book out of obscurity, gave it the Newbery, and told us to deal with it, and you know what? It was the perfect choice. It may have been the only choice.
4.5 out of 5 Newbery Pies.
Moon Over Manifest tells the story of Abilene Tucker, a young girl who is sent by her father to live in the small town of Manifest with an old friend in order to avoid the rugged lifestyle he lives. Very much a mystery, the story bounces back and forth between 1936 and 1917 and two different sets of characters and stories, Abilene trying to figure out what her father was like when he was a boy and why he exiled her to such a seemingly dead town.
I usually like to break books down into categories. The two categories I ponder most when assessing whether or not I liked a book are: the plot and the way it was written (word choice, etc.).
Plot: The plot of Moon Over Manifest is very complex, and a complex plot presents the major obstacle for writers of trying to make sure each moment or artifact has a reason and connects with every place that moment or artifact is mentioned or used again in the story. I know of only one writer who perfectly mastered the art of complex plots: J.K. Rowling. Every moment and introduction of any new artifact in Harry Potter had a reason and tied in somewhere later in the plot. Nothing was arbitrary. Moon Over Manifest, however, didn’t quite master that skill, only a few moments or artifacts never seeming quite as vital to the plot. Vanderpool just seems to linger on some moments longer than necessary. However, Moon Over Manifest is a very original novel, an interesting mystery, and displays a unique plot that does a pretty good job of telling a complex story.
Way it is written: Although I thought the word choice was poor in only a few moments of the story, the dialogue is where I have a small, almost insignificant size of beef. Intended to represent the sluggish dialect of a small, old town, it rarely felt very authentic but rather forced.
Question: What’s YOUR favorite Newbery winner?