Monday, March 18, 2013

A Pair of Great Books from Clare Vanderpool

"Dad, this story is so good!"

I was relieved to hear this.  On our drive home from an excursion to Philly we finished Watership Down.  I knew this would happen, so I had gotten a new book.  But we were out of Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and the City of Ember - and the kids had started reading Lemony Snicket on their own.  So I just started poking around looking for something new.  I stumbled on the 2011 Newbery Award-winning Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.  I guess Newbery Award should be enough of an endorsement, but I worried that it would be too precious, or without action the Goofs would be bored.

I needn't have worried at all.  Within moments of listening we were swept into the story (cynical Father Goof included!)

Set in the Depression it is about Abilene, a streetwise girl who had been riding the rails with her father when suddenly he sends her off to the town of Manifest where he had been raised.  She lives with the man who took in her father when he was a teenage drifter, discovers a cache of letters from almost two decades earlier.  The story moves back and forth between the narrator's present and the stories told by the letters, set during World War 1 and the Great Influenza.

Abilene, feeling that her father has sent her to Manifest to abandon her, begin exploring the town's past in order to learn who her father really is.

Moon Over Manifest is a nice change of pace from all of the fantasy and adventure.  There are fantastic, mysterious moments but the story is based in reality.  It is sad and sweet, with a history lesson thrown in.

In short, the little Goofs description was dead on.

Best of all, Ms. Vanderpool has another book, Navigating Early.  Another story of a young person feeling abandoned by his parents.  Set in Maine during World War 2' Jack 's mother in Kansas has died and his father is serving in the Navy.  Jack is sent to a boarding school in Maine where he falls in with the odd outcast Early who sees the number Pi as a story.  Over a school break, Jack joins Early on a quest through Maine's deep woods.  We are still in the middle, but, while completely real, Navigating Early also has a magical, mythical quality to it.

The little Goofs say Navigating Early is even better than Moon Over Manifest.  I say, why choose.

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