Part mystery, part coming-of-age tale, Moon Over Manifest follows twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker as she tries to make sense of her father’s past and her own present. Left to stay in Manifest, Kansas with Pastor Shady Howard, Abilene feels abandoned by her father. Learning about his past helps her understand him better and ultimately reunite with him. Set in both 1917 and 1936, the novel provides rich historical context along with a heartwarming emphasis on the importance of family and community. Young readers will also be exposed to a mixture of text formats, as Vanderpool weaves her story through multiple narrators, flashbacks, letters, and newspaper articles.
Moon Over Manifest makes heavy use of parallel stories. A parallel story is a narrative structure in which the writer includes two or more separate plots linked by a common character and/or theme. Moon Over Manifest begins with Abilene as the protagonist in 1936 Manifest. As she explores the town’s past, Miss Sadie recounts lengthy flashbacks detailing the lives of Jinx and Ned Gillen in 1917-18. In these stories, Jinx is the protagonist. As the novel progresses, the flashbacks grow increasingly central to the story’s main plot and pacing. In fact, comparatively little action takes place in 1936, as Abilene’s main adventures consist of digging up the past. The two stories eventually come together, reaching the climax at the same point and sharing a resolution. The 1918 plotline is not resolved until Jinx (Gideon) returns to Manifest in 1936.
One of the Newbury Medal award winning historical fiction books, Moon Over Manifest contains references to events and realities from the early 1900s. Students may benefit from previewing some of the topics listed below before or during their reading of the novel.