Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Moon Over Manifest Audio

Moon Over Manifest Audio

Clare Vanderpool
For ages 10 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Justine Eyre with Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne
Listening Library, 2011   ISBN: 978-0307941930

It is 1936, and twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker is being sent to spend the summer in Manifest, a small dusty town in Kansas. Abilene and her father Gideon have being moving from place to place for as long as she can remember, and her home has always been wherever he is, so she is confused by her father’s decision to send her to the town where he grew up. She cannot understand why he is abandoning her, and hopes that perhaps she will learn more about her father in Manifest.

Abilene has an old 1917 copy of the Manifest Herald that she has been using to line a box containing her father’s old compass. Over the years, she has read and reread the newspaper, trying to get a picture of what Manifest might be like. Back in 1917, Manifest was an interesting place, but now it is a tired and dusty old town that is struggling to survive, and Abilene is disappointed when she sees that Manifest is nothing like the place that she has heard about.

When she gets to Manifest, Abilene goes to live with her father’s friend, Shady Howard, and soon after arriving, she finds an old cigar box under a floorboard in her room. Inside the box, there is a map, some letters written by someone called Ned to someone else called Jinx, and some “keepsakes.” In his first letter, Ned tells Jinx to watch out for a spy whom he calls “the Rattler.” Soon Abilene and her two new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, are trying to figure out who the Rattler is.

Quite by accident, Abilene gets to know Miss Sadie, the local fortuneteller. Miss Sadie is a Hungarian lady who came to Manifest many years ago when it was a haven for immigrants. Miss Sadie starts to tell Abilene about Ned and Jinx, and about the Manifest of the past. Abilene is fascinated by the stories, and she soon realizes that the keepsakes and letters in the cigar box are connected to the stories that she is hearing. The one thing that makes no sense, is that Gideon is never mentioned in any of the stories. Abilene is desperate to find out who her father was, and why he ended up roaming the country. Surely somewhere in the story of Manifest lies the story of Gideon Tucker as well.

In this remarkable audiobook, Clare Vanderpool uses alternating chapters to tell the story of Manifest in 1917 and of Manifest in 1936. The narrative includes Ned’s letters and excerpts from the Manifest Herald. Listeners will be captivated by the colorful characters in the story, and, as Manifest’s secrets slowly come to light, they will find it impossible not to wonder what mystery lies at the heart of Manifest.

Justine Eyre’s narrative beautifully captures Abilene’s personality, helping us to see how vulnerable this young girl is, though she tries very hard to seem tough and self-reliant.