Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some of you may already know that Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool, was awarded the 2011 Newbery Medal, given annually for the most distinguished American book for young people published the previous year. Those of you who've read this wonderful book know that it doesn't take place in Paris, or Italy, or Istanbul, but rather, in the fictional town of Manifest, Kansas (Vanderpool grew up in the very real town of Wichita).

So why am I mentioning it here? Because it's one of the best books I've ever read; it's for a reader of any age; as the book opens at the end of the month of May I tend to think of it as a summer book; and in its own way is a book about travel. Moon Over Manifest is worth reading for lots of reasons, and one of them is for a sentence that is my most favorite in the entire book: "But as anyone worth his salt knows, it's best to get a look at a place before it gets a look at you."

Abilene Tucker is a character you will love from the very first chapter. You will also love her father, Gideon, all her new friends in Manifest: Shady, Hattie, Lettie, Ruthanne, and, eventually, Miss Sadie and Sister Redempta. Vanderpool brilliantly and successfully weaves a story beginning in 1936 with one beginning in 1917, in alternating chapters, and though it's a work of fiction, Vanderpool is a great fan of historical fiction and she drew on stories she grew up with as well as what she researched in local newspapers, yearbooks, and graveyards (right down to advertisements for things like 'Velma T.'s Vitamin Revitalizer' and 'Old St. Jack's Lumbago Liniment'). The plot is suspenseful and mysterious, and filled with many good people from many other places in the world actually, as well as local people who are quite despicable.

Based on the real Kansas town of Frontenac, home of both of Vanderpool's maternal grandparents, Manifest --'A Town With a Rich Past and a Bright Future' -- becomes a town that Gideon and Abilene call home, a town where they belonged. And that, as you will see, is far more complex than you can imagine, because, to quote Melville (as Vanderpool does), home "is not down in any map. True places never are."

Read Moon Over Manifest and savor every word, smile, maybe shed a few tears (as I did), think about people who've extended kindnesses to you in your life, remember a time when you were a newcomer somewhere or a visitor in a foreign country, appreciate the words 'family' and 'home' and 'decency,' and then share this book with everyone you know because this is a book for all humanity.

No comments:

Post a Comment