Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Moon Over Manifest

Recently I received a box of books in my classroom through a program my school participated in involving Sunny D labels.  The end result was me with 20 new books for my classroom library - who-hoo!  It was like Christmas in October!  And of course the most fun part was that I now had all these new books to read!  I like to read as many of the books in my classroom as possible so I can recommend them to the right students.  I haven't read every book on my shelves, but I have read most of them.  I want my love of reading to spill over and splash my students, and I hope that in the years to come I can perfect the task of recommending books to students in a way that gets them excited about reading.  There is such a vast world out there to experience through reading, it truly is extraordinary. 

This is why I am now on my third review in a row that is on a book considered to be young adult fiction - and as much as I loved The False Prince, today's book has surpassed it.  It is one of the best stories I have read in a long time.  It was the 2011 Newberry Award Winner, and I cannot imagine the competition was that close with any other book.  It's that good.

Moon Over Manifest is the story of Abilene Tucker, a 12 year old girl from the 1930s who has been sent to her father's hometown of Manifest, Kansas to stay while he works on the railroad.  She is used to moving around and living on the road, and she lives every day with the expectation that her father is going to come get her.  In the meantime, she stumbles across a box full of mementos and some mysterious letters, and through these items along with the help of some of the townspeople she meets, she begins to uncover the story of Jinx, a boy similar to herself in his life situation who was in the town two decade before.  As their life stories overlap and intertwine with one another, Abilene begins to see the town, the people, and her own life in a different light.  There is much to learn about Manifest, and as she uncovers truths that have been buried for many years, the town's sign begins to weigh with a much heavier meaning: "Manifest...A Town With a Past."

This is a magnificent story.  It has it all.  Well, not much romance, I suppose.  But it has everything else.  It is the kind of story I absolutely love.  The author puts several lures out there to hook you right from that beginning.  Everything mentioned has significant meaning, and you don't understand how it all relates until the very last page.  The author does not leave out a single detail, and the story that unfolds is like an onion, unfolding layer after layer, until you are so overwhelmed with "a-ha!" moments that by the time you finish the book, you're exhausted.  I LOVE THAT!  This is the kind of book you can't put down.  It's a walk-through-the-halls-reading-and-try-not-to-bump-into-walls kind of book.  It's a be-careful-and-don't-burn-the-dinner-because-you-are-reading-while-you-cook kind of book.  And it's definitely the kind of book that, upon finishing, you will start over and read again, because NOW everything is much more significant than the first time. 

This book also holds a specific meaning for me because although the author names the town in the book Manifest, she states in the author's note that the book is really about the town of Frontenac, Kansas, which is a town just a few miles from where I live.  It's not just a fantastic story.  It's also the story of Southeast Kansas around the turn of the century.  It's the story of my own immigrant ancestors and how they came here for a better life.  It's about the control of the coal mines and the hold that they had over this area - and to some degree the hold they still have today, judging by what the mines did to the land and how they defined the people.  Many will read this book and see a great historical fiction story.  I read this book with personal pride knowing that the people on whom the characters are based are my people from almost 100 years ago.  The story of Manifest is the story of Southeast Kansas, and I am proud of my ancestors and who they were and who they became. 

In short: READ THIS BOOK. 

Rating: 10 out of 5 stars!
What I'm Reading Now: Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge

Top 5 TBR:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Shooting Victoria by Paul Thomas Murphy
A Prophetic Calendar by Jill Shannon
Forgotten God by Francis Chan
The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordian

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