Moon Over Manifest Summary

Dec 10, 2011

Moon Over Manifest
By Clare Vanderpool
Age: Suitable for really almost anyone but targeted toward 10-12 year old girls.
Awards: 2011 John Newbery Award.
My Rating: Five stars+++++

It’s 1936. Abilene Tucker’s lived on the railroad with her father Gideon her whole life, but shortly after she turns 12 he decides that railroad life is unsuitable for a young lady like Abilene and sends her to Manifest, Kansas, where he once stayed. She’s to live with Pastor Shady Howard, an interim pastor for the First Baptist Church and a friend of Gideon, while he stays working on the railroad back in Des Moines, Iowa. Once she hops off the train, Abilene immediately begins a mission to find “some news about or some insight into my daddy.”
While looking for a place to hide her possessions, Abilene finds a Lucky Bill cigar box with all kinds of mementos in it, a couple of letters, and what looked to be a map under a loose floorboard in her new room.

Abilene feels stupid for going to school the next day, because it’s the last day, but she makes two friends, Lettie and Ruthanne. She shows them the map and the first letter, and because of a sentence in the letter that talks about “the Rattler,” they think that the map is a spy map.
At night, Abilene goes back to the cemetery to look for Gideon’s golden compass, which she dropped while she and her new friends had been spying on the creepy undertaker whom they suspect is “the Rattler,” and she finds it is gone. Depressed, she wanders near an old unkempt house nearby with the word “Perdition” welded crookedly into the gate. To her complete surprise, she sees the gold compass there, hanging among the wind chimes decorating the porch.
The next morning, she goes to visit Miss Sadie, the owner of the house, and discovers that Miss Sadie is a “diviner,” which Abilene translates as “fortune-teller.” When Miss Sadie asks Abilene what she seeks, Abilene blurts out, “I’m looking for my daddy.” Abilene gives Miss Sadie the first letter from under the loose floorboard and Miss Sadie goes through a kind of fit, choking up a bit. Then she starts telling a story about the two boys in the letter, Ned and Jinx, which Abilene believes is a made-up story.
She plans to just take her compass and leave, but Miss Sadie changes her plans because Abilene broke a pot that had survived a boat ride all the way from Hungary. So, in order to get her compass, Abilene has to work for Miss Sadie, doing backbreaking yard work and listening to Miss Sadie’s stories, which are actually true. Finally, Abilene begins to believe that the stories are real, after seeing the descendants of the characters in the stories, and finally finds what she’s been looking for all along.