Abilene and her father Gideon have always been together, even when times were tough and Gideon couldn’t find work. But the summer of 1936, Gideon sends Abilene away on a train to the town of Manifest, Kansas, where he says an old friend Shady will take care of her. Knowing (or perhaps hoping) that Gideon will come and collect her at the end of the summer, Abilene tries hard not to grow attached to Manifest. But as she tries to search for her father’s footprint in the town, she stumbles upon a story of the town’s past that is too fascinating and mysterious to ignore–a story of con men, war, immigrant cultures, and spy from the Great War (the Rattler) who just might still be around the town. Abilene and her friends try to piece together the past from a box of old letters and keepsakes, the town’s newspaper archive, and an old gypsy woman’s oral history. Every day they seem to get closer to the Rattler’s true identity. And although Abilene can’t figure out why Gideon never shows up any of the old stories, she is determined to find him somewhere in the town’s past.
Moon Over Manifest isn’t another one of those depressing Newbery winners about grief and loss. It is a beautiful story of a young girl’s quest to learn more about her father’s past. Set during the great depression, Abilene’s story is an historical fiction within an historical fiction: the focus being on the rich heritage of the town, the stories of the immigrants who settled there, the challenges they faced, and their success in building a town they could all be proud of. Well-researched and full of engaging storytelling, Moon Over Manifest will appeal to historical fiction readers and those who like triumphant stories of the success of underdogs. I highly recommend it!