nicole's Reviews > Moon Over Manifest

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
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Sep 26, 11

bookshelves: 7up, 2011, newbery, historical_fiction
Read from September 14 to 26, 2011

I imagine the Newbery voters made a list. The list counted all the ways Moon Over Manifest could be used during a history lesson. Depression, orphan trains, prohibition, immigration, Ellis Island, WWI. The list was longer than that of any of the other works of fiction written for children in America that year and so deemed the most educational and best. I can't imagine it had much of anything to do with how engaged a child would (or could) become with the book.

As an adult reader, I can certainly spot the book's merits. Vanderpool can write, for one. No denying that. And I really loved the female friendship she depicted between Abilene, Lettie, and Ruthanne for its authenticity. You just don't see too many girls spy-hunting in a book without a boy in tow, unless it's something being advertised as a "girl book" (The Red Blazer Girls, Kiki Strike). That's not to say I don't like those girl books, just that it was refreshing to see girls acting like girls without a big to-do or dash of pink on the cover. And I could certainly understand how this book would be a great teaching tool. But would I, as a child or tween want to read it? Absolutely, without a doubt, not. My tongue would have been lolling out of my head, which would have been laying against the top of my desk in utter agony. I would have been positively bored out of my mind by Moon Over Manifest. It would have just been too many things I didn't understand and in some cases, frankly didn't care about. ("shut up about prohibition already!" I can hear my 11 year old self shouting "It's on every other page and I do not mourn the ban on alcohol!") I wonder if I would have been confused by the way the text jumps from past to present to letter to newspaper article. And the subtle humor that the adult reader finds in the newspaper articles (which was mildly funny at best to begin with) no doubt would have gone unnoticed. And the ads following them? Booooring. These SHOULD have been some of the best parts of the books from a kid's perspective, if only there had been some visual interest. What a missed opportunity. I would have poured over them if they looked like old documents.

And lastly. Miss Sadie. I understand that years had probably passed between the time she had to leave her son at Ellis Island and the time when she finally reunited with him but... MY GOD HE'S YOUR SON HOW DO YOU NOT SAY ANYTHING? I didn't find that sweetly self-sacrificial, I found it utterly insane and no great favor to the kid either. I was very dissatisfied with this final story from the "medium", especially coming right at the end of the book.

Is two stars too low? Well, it adequately sums up my own feelings about the book -- eh, it was okay -- and I think it's a fair assessment of how much interest kids will actually have in it. Some junior history buffs might just love it. But most, if assigned to pick a book off that designated Newbery shelf will probably find themselves looking around the classroom, jealously eyeing their classmates' copies of When You Reach Me or The Graveyard Book.
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Reading Progress

09/18/2011 page 102
28.0% "As an adult reader, I like the voice and the friendship between Lettie, Ruthanne and Abilene, but I'm pretty sure as an elementary school student I would have been bored and knocking my head against the desk by page 50. It's everything I hated as a kid... historical (KKK and cold mining and Depression), uses dialects and there's talk of spies. Boo, boo, and booooo says 9 year old me."

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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The Library Lady My 12 yr old was unimpressed. I find more and more that the Newberry people seem to be listening to their inner children less and less. Sigh...


nicole I think it's pretty hit or miss. I thought When You Reach Me was a great selection, for example; something I would have loved as kid (even if I avoided it at first because of the mystery bent -- i just hated mysteries). I'm pretty bored by Moon Over Manifest though :/


The Library Lady It's always illuminating to read real readers reviews of Newberry picks. I remember when "Criss Cross" won. All the adult reviews on Amazon raved about it, all the teens and kids HATED it!

And don't even get me started on how many Newberry winner/honor books have any appeal to boys, especially the poor reluctant readers with well meaning teachers who insist everyone read a medal winner. Oy!


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