Monday, December 19, 2011

Audiobook Review: Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool


Vanderpool, C. Moon Over Manifest. 2010. Random House Audio. Audiobook $25.00. ISBN 9780307941930.

When this year's Newbery winner was announced, I had the same reaction as a lot of readers:  Moon over WHAT? It kind of came from left field to win the medal. But let me tell you, that Newbery committee knew what they were doing when they chose this title. It's good. Really, really good! To be honest, I had my doubts about how I would like it, but ended up completely riveted.

It's a book in which different threads of story come together in an satisfying conclusion. In 1936, Abilene is sent to the town of Manifest, Kansas, while her father works on the railroad, which he says is no place for a young girl. Her father had spent some time in Manifest as a boy, and Abilene is determined to find out more about his connection to the town. In her efforts to discover the history of her father, she discovers the history of the town itself.

Moon Over Manifest is one of those seemingly quiet books that kids may not pick up on their own. But if they do, they’ll undoubtedly be drawn into the mystery of the story as it unfolds layer by layer. Boys and girls will both enjoy this book equally, as there are two main characters: Abilene in 1936, and Jinx, the boy whose letters she discovers from 1918.

Of the dual narratives that make up the story, it’s Jinx’s story that really grabs the reader. His story is filled with lively characters, high stakes, and brilliant schemes, and Abilene's story is more of a frame. The storytelling is masterfully executed, as neither portion of the story would have the impact of the two combined. Abilene’s determination to find out more about her father gives emotional weight to the flashbacks, and the structure of the narrative makes for a fascinating puzzle as the reader wonders how the town went from a place full of hope in 1918 to a near ghost-town in 1936. If we didn’t have the picture of the town in 1936, the events of 1918 wouldn’t mean as much to the reader.

This novel works very well as an audiobook. The three modes of storytelling (the main narrative, a newspaper column, and a young soldier's letters home from war) are differentiated nicely with three actors reading the parts. The two secondary narrators, Kirby Heyborne and Cassandra Campbell, bring their roles to life and are a pure pleasure to hear.

The primary narrator, Justine Eyre, has a very distinctive texture to her voice that makes her unconvincing as a young girl, so I’m not sure she’s the best choice for a first-person youth narration. That said, she has excellent pacing, and does a fabulous job with the adult characters. She’s got quite a range, creating distinct voices for each character and using a variety of accents. Also, I enjoyed that her speech is clipped and precise in a way that sounds old-fashioned, like something out of a 1930s movie, making her performance perfect for historical fiction.

I still find myself thinking about this book months after finishing it.  I'm so glad I gave it a try, and recommend it enthusiastically to anyone looking for a solid, uplifting story.

5 comments:

  1. I'm glad you liked it - I did too, and felt rather out of place.

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  2. Thanks for reviewing this! I knew it had won the Newbery, but really hadn't heard much about it beyond that.

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  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Kathleen, so glad to know you liked this one too. I can see why people were like "ehhh" about it before having read it, because it sounds kind of boring from the summary... but once you get into it, it's SUCH a good story! I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more widespread love.

    Moonlit Librarian, I honestly would have given this one a miss if it hadn't been for the fact that I needed an audiobook for my commute and this one happened to be on the shelf, and since it was the Newbery and all, I thought I'd give it a try... I was amazed at how invested I became in it!

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  4. Tune into The Book Report to hear from good Authors and what they have to say about their books. Go to www.bookreportradio.com to get the Show times and stations in your area.

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