Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool

When Abilene Tucker shows up on a train in Manifest, Kansas by herself, the sign reads, “Manifest: A Town With a Past”. Strange; that isn’t what her daddy Gideon told her it said. In fact, there are a lot of things Gideon told her that don’t match up about Manifest, the town where he grew up. Looking for more clues about Gideon around Manifest, Abilene is surprised to find that there is more to this town than meets the eye.

Tales of the mysterious ‘Rattler’ begin to pop up after Abilene finds a box of knick-knacks under the floorboards of a church. With her two new friends, Abilene begins a hunt to find out what happened to the Rattler, and Gideon, twenty years ago. Walking down the Path to Perdition, Abilene must face the reality the maybe Gideon isn’t coming back for her.

moonover

My first inclination with this book was yes, it was very good. Well written, with interesting background and secret pasts and mysterious dodgy citizens. A well thought out plot, and lots of research. Basically, everything that a person with refined taste in style raves over, like a librarian or an English teacher that will assign it as reading, because it contains everything they’re looking for: history, character building and ethnic diversity. While I don’t consider my own tastes “refined” in any way, I am trying to look at this book from several different angles: the critical, factual perfectionist editor angle, and the potential forced to read this in Junior High angle (which I was not, but the Newberry status of the book makes it the perfect candidate).

From the critical standpoint, I have absolutely nothing to say that was bad on a technicality. The writing style was unique, the story well-told, and an overall good feeling of coming together-ness from a town that fell apart 20 years earlier during WWI.

But (again, theoretically, I am not this kid), coming from the perspective of a kid who loves the Hunger Games and Maze Runner and all the other gripping popular teen fiction that lacks finesse, this book is going to be the book that puts them to sleep. “Why should I care about topics like character building or ethnic diversity?”

Personally, I liked this book. I wasn’t on the edge of my seat, but I thought it was deep enough to enjoy, especially for a children’s book. It’s sort like the next step up from the American Girl series, but better and less girly. If you really enjoyed those books, then this is your cup of tea.

Overall Rating: 4/5

Violence: 2/10

Language: 1/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 1/10

Audience: 8 and up

Advertisements

The Marvels, by Brian Selznick

In 1766 a tale, told in pictures, reveals the story of the Marvels. Beginning with Billy Marvel, survivor of a shipwreck at sea, the saga of theater-bound generations are not spoken, but shown descendant after descendant.

Fast forward to 1990. Joseph Jervis has runaway from school to find his Uncle Albert, an unknown relative who might just hold the key to the adventure Joseph is looking for. Upon arrival, Joseph finds that it isn’t his uncle, but the house he lives in, that brings more mystery about his family’s past than he even knew existed.

themarvels

When I said that the first story was told in pictures, I meant it. Brian Selznick himself sketched over 300 pages of pictures, so don’t be intimidated by this book’s size. The total amount of time it took to read this book isn’t very long, even if you take your time soaking in the pictures. Also, don’t get to thinking that this is a picture book; the plot is too big for that.

It was such a beautiful story. This is one of the books where you get so invested in characters that it’s hard to let the book end, especially the illustrations. I was really struck with the emotions which aren’t really said in the book, but once you take a minute to see what’s going on on the inside, almost a secret second plot, things like grief, overwhelming loss, and seeing things in a deeper sense even if it’s only inside your head become apparent.

One of the more interesting things about this story is that, all in all, there was a lot of plot for the amount of story that happened, but that wasn’t actually a lot. If you could pack the entire book into a summary, you could, but that awesome sense of unfolding doesn’t happen. Like I said, the actual read time isn’t long but in the end it turns out to be so simple that it makes you wonder at how well it is written.

Another fantastic book by Brian Selznick, who also wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which still is one of my favorite books of all time. The review is here. I look forward to reading Wonderstruck.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Violence: 1/10

Language: 2/10

Inappropriateness/Romance: 3/10 (It is briefly stated that two men were in a relationship, but I was surprised by the way it played out. It could fly over some kid’s heads it was so brief, but then again it might not. For me it didn’t take away from the book at all.)

Audience: Ages 10 and up; the general themes are too grim for anyone younger. Personal taste can vary hugely as to what age can read this.