Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Keep the New in Newbery

For months after a book wins the Newbery, it enjoys great attention. Publishers print more copies. Sales increase. The title is issued in paperback. Maybe a movie is optioned. Then the book goes to a special shelf marked “Newbery Winners.”  It has a permanent home. A Newbery winner will always be a part of that great honorable body of literature. I usually don’t blog a Newbery winner, after the fact, because that year it has found its audience. But after that? Just in case you didn’t have time for this one the year it first appeared…  

 MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool, Delecorte Press, 2010

This Newbery winner, a debut novel, came from the author’s family roots.  Drawing on stories she heard as a child, she followed leads in town newspapers, yearbooks, and graveyards, and based Manifest, a fictional town, on the real southeastern Kansas town of Frontenac, home of both her maternal grandparents.  It’s a subtle blend of fact with fiction.

The year is 1936. Family money problems then and now have an eerie similarity.  Abilene is 12 and wishes she knew more about her father, a quiet “drifter.”  Abilene’s voice is sweet and pure, but plenty strong. She has a code of ethics and is nobody’s pushover.  When her father sends her to stay with an old friend in Manifest, Kansas, where he grew up, part of her is reluctant but her quest for information is off and running.

Manifest may seem tired and frayed at the edges, but Abilene and her new friends, Ruthanne and Lettie, uncover secrets and investigate with all the determination of a detective agency for girls only. They find mysterious letters, go on a spy hunt, and meet reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner whose stories are rich with tales of the past.  As the narrative alternates between stories about a couple of boys Abilene and her friends discover and the adventures of the girls themselves, Abilene finds the thread that weaves her life into the town’s fabric.

Start your own mother/daughter summer book club with this one. Make it new to you.   

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