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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Moon Over Manifest

I admit that while I still had not read the Newbery Medal winner by ALA Annual, I very much enjoyed Clare Vanderpool’s acceptance speech, finding her warm, personable, and funny.  When I surveyed people at the conference about whether they liked the book, many people had not managed to finish it, but most who did found many distinguished qualities–and heartily supported the choice.

I finally picked it up a couple of weeks ago, remembering my promise last spring: to read and comment on the book come fall.  So . . . I loved it!  I still have lingering concerns about the pacing (the same as I had for KEEPER–which I also liked very much) and I think the clever dual narrative requires willing suspension of disbelief in order for the story to truly work.  But I definitely think this is one of the strongest novels.  You can probably build an equally convincing case for ONE CRAZY SUMMER, but that’s a character-driven book.  This, too, is character-driven–with Abilene, Jinx, and the entire town of Manifest drawn in fine detail–but it’s also a very plot-driven book, and I am a plot-driven reader so it’s no surprise that I would warm up to this as I got past those early chapters into the meat of the story.  Now MOON OVER MANIFEST didn’t displace my top three–A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, DARK EMPEROR, and SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD–but I could probably put it in my top five, and definitely in my top seven.


ONE CRAZY SUMMER had already bagged a National Book Award nomination and the Scott O’Dell Award before it won the Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor at the ALA Youth Media Awards announcement, but fellow Newbery Honor book DARK EMPEROR also picked up some more prizes.  It was the lone honor book for the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and one of two honor books in the picture book category of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.

A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS and SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD were both finalists for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize with the former book prevailing as the winner.  THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD, another personal favorite, won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction.  Both SUGAR CHANGED THE WORLD and THE NOTORIOUS BENEDICT ARNOLD are still eligible for the 2012 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction.  We’ll see if they make the shortlist later this fall.


On a personal note, I’m happy to report that I am back in a school library position after a two year hiatus.  Due to budget cuts these past couple of years, I taught 7th grade World History last year and a special day class for deaf and hard of hearing students in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades the year before that.  I’m now covering our alternative high school plus five additional elementary sites in the first semester and two junior highs in the second semester.  At least, that’s the plan for now.  It’s kind of crazy!

Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at


  1. Wow, Jonathan, that is crazy! But good to be back in the trenches, I’m sure. Very happy to have Heavy Medal back in my Google Reader rotation!

  2. Welcome back! Good luck with the schedule! It sounds like you’ll have lots of perspectives to draw from, anyway!

  3. Welcome back, Mister Thinly-Spread Librarian Man. That sounds like a lot of libraries. However, if you get to do the ordering for all of them – let the good times roll.

    I also liked MOON OVER MANIFEST, but it did take me a long time to finish it. I’m not sure where the lack of compeltion (is that a word) was? Loved the characters, setting, and story, but it never gabbed a hold of me and forced me to neglect my children and pets until I finished it.

    I have a confession. I’ve reread THE CONPIRACY OF KINGS since we last conviened. I was a big “it donsn’t stand alone” critic, and I would like to retract. In fact COK may stand alone better than the second and thrid books of the series. Not, of course, that it is relevant to any criteria. I still maintain that there was not nearly enough Eugenides in it. I wish we didn’t need to wait so long between books.

    Looking forward to discovering your frontrunners for this year.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Thanks for the warm welcome, Jennifer, Sondy, and DaNae! I know MOON OVER MANIFEST caught many of us by surprise, and it was hard to get a hold of a copy just after the announcement. I hope that some more of you will share not only your own impressions of the book, but also your observations on how it has connected to its target audience of children. How does it circulate in your area? Does it have appeal to both genres? Girls will probably identify with Abilene from the beginning, but will boys? Or will they have the patience to wait for Jinx’s story? Does it work in elementary school? Or is this more of a middle school book? None of these are considerations for the committee, but these are certainly things we all think of now as we try to place the book in the right hands.

  5. I was really puzzled by the choice of Moon Over Manifest and didn’t think it the most distinguished book of the year by any stretch. I thought it was good (I only know this because I said so in my Goodreads review), but I didn’t find elements that I thought were most distinguished–particularly in comparison with the excellent honor books. I might have liked it more if some of the plot elements and/or characters had been cut, leading to a tighter story.

  6. I enjoyed Moon Over Manifest the most of the books that were chosen. (Although I still haven’t been able to read Heart of a Samurai). I liked it mostly for Jinx’s story though and not Abilene’s. I skimmed a lot during her parts. That might have been because by then I was thoroughly over the 10-12 year old girl discovers knowledge about missing parent while finding a nice new community story. I’m still over it actually, so I kind of hope we are moving on this year.

  7. I had actually ordered Moon Over Manifest for our system when it came out, but never actually read it until it won the Newbery. I did think it was excellent and I don’t quibble over its selection. However, I did not have a specific favorite for the Newbery last year that I really, really wanted to win. That actually is quite rare for me….I usually have 2-3 books that I would be happy for them to win, but rarely do I have one that I really, really, want to win. The last time that happened was for The Wednesday Wars, which, of course, did win the Honor. This year, there may be one book that I would love to win, but I really need to go back and reread it. I fell it in love with it instantly, but time may have calmed that feeling.

    As of now, all three copies of Moon Over Manifest are checked out. However, I have a suspicion that it was on some required summer reading lists this year (I could swear that it was, but I looked at so many lists this summer that I hesitate to say it definitely was) and this is because of last-minute readers.

  8. Just remembered that Moon Over Manifest is on a very popular list- our Middle School Battle of the Books list. The list came out at the end of May, so it’s had healthy circulation since then. However, we shelve the book in our children’s section (the middle school list tends to include books from the children’s department and the YA department).

  9. Jonathan,

    I had several, maybe three, girls and one boy read it right after it won. I had many, many more check it out and not finish. Of the ones that finished it they all really liked it. At least that is what they told me. On the other hand, I’ve had a bunch of adults read it to great acclaim.

    I think one of its deterrents is that it is fairly long for a non-fantasy book. (One of the mysteries of my job is how three or four inch fantasy books get read in droves while every other book of size is shunned.)

  10. Johnathan, thanks for sharing your thoughts on Moon – it’s been a long time coming! I hear you about pacing concerns, but I’m confused (and curious) when you say the dual narratives require willing suspension of disbelief – in what way? I found the dual narrative to be satisfyingly believable, despite the fact that I’ve personally never had my fortune told (or my cards read).

    Wendy, as a member of the 2011 Newbery committee – long may it run, oh greatest group of humanage ever assembled – I agree completely with your assessment of the 4 honor books as “excellent,” my only quibble being that you are underrating them! As for Moon being a puzzling choice… well, I may be biased, but I still find it to be an amazing and captivating read, many many (many) times over! To me the setting, above all else, stands out as Moon’s most outstanding feature. Think about it: Clare actually had to build this setting twice – once in the present (Abilene’s time) and once in the past (Jinx’s time), and she more than succeeds on both counts. The story, with all of its layers and interwoven parts, comes together beautifully – so very well-plotted. The characters, as Johnathan mentioned, are drawn with fine detail, language that is beautiful and funny and heartbreaking in equal measure. I could probably go on for another few days, but (a) I’ll bore you all to death, and (b) I’ll wear out my welcome, and this is only post #2 of the new year – have to pace myself. Hurray for Heavy Medal – I’m so glad I can actually join the conversation this year!

  11. Jonathan Hunt says:

    First of all, let me say that I frequently find that first person narration requires willing suspension of disbelief–and I also frequently find no problem offering it (but not always). In this case, Jinx’s narrative is an oral narrative–a record of the continuing story that Miss Sadie is telling (I think there is at least one time when Shady takes over the story, no?)–but it is actually too detailed to be an oral narrative. Nevertheless, the reader willingly accepts this as a reasonable substitute because the written narrative is much more satisfying than a true representation of an oral narrative.

    On the other hand, Ned’s letters represent the actual written letters, and they appear in the book not when Abilene reads them, but spaced evenly throughout the rest of the story to infuse Ned’s story with more suspense for the reader. More strings showing here.

    How is it that Miss Sadie can relate the stories of Jinx and Ned so intimately, anyway, when her identity in the 1918 narrative is concealed even from the town? I guess the town folk could have exchanged stories about the two boys in the wake of their departures, especially when the secrets come to light, but there are still moments when the two characters are not in the presence of anybody else, for example, their first meeting in the woods. How did Miss Sadie come to know that? Then, too, how is it that Shady can seamlessly pick up the 1918 narrative from Miss Sadie and hand it back again?

    So while I really enjoyed the complex narrative structure of the book, I’d probably need a second reading to see whether it holds up under closer scrutiny. Even if it doesn’t, however, that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the book and I think most readers are quite willing to collude with Vanderpool and simply “make it work.”

  12. Jonathan Hunt says:

    And lest you think that I’m being unfair in these criticisms, I’ll remind you that A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS which I personally esteemed to be the most distinguished novel of the year also had a first person narrative–and also occasionally requires willing suspension of disbelief. Just as I think oral narratives do not come close to Miss Sadie’s detailed account, neither do I think most people are willing to write a novel length account of their adventures–even for their beloved. Just as Ned’s letters are conveniently dropped into the narrative so, too, does a third person narrator conveniently take up the tale when Sophos reaches the court of Attolia. I don’t have any problem with any of these, and it’s the kind of willing suspension of disbelief that I think most authors can count on. I guess it’s my concerns listed in the third paragraph above that I would really need to resolve on a second reading.

  13. Jonathan; In your last post, Jan27, 2011, you were 2nd on the list to get a copy of MOM. Yet by ALA June 28 you STILL hadn’t read it. Now it’s Aug and time for HM 2012 and you decided to read it. We’re looking forward to Newbery 2012 discussion and here comes Jonathan sucking all the air out of the room wanting to discuss a book he only read a couple of weeks ago.

  14. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I checked it out twice and returned it because deadlines for Horn Book reviews and Edwards committee reading prevented me from reading it at those times–and then I moved on to 2012 books which I read for various obligations (Heavy Medal, BER seminars). Since Heavy Medal closed shop at the end of January, I wouldn’t have posted about it before now, regardless of whether I read it on March 1 or September 1. It’s a free country, Sheryl, and nobody’s going to force you to read a post and/or discuss a book that you really don’t want to. Why don’t you move on to WONDERSTRUCK and leave a comment there?

  15. Dang Sheryl – pretty harsh. Johnathan, I’ll discuss Moon with you until the cows come home, and in addition I’d be willing to take the blame for sucking the air out of the proverbial room. But in order to keep the peace (and to avoid the wrath of Sheryl), if you want you can email me if you’d like to continue the discussion.

    Just for the record, I think your criticisms of Moon were entirely fair… I just don’t agree with them. And I definitely don’t think you needed to bring CoK into this, especially to criticize mwt’s choice of p.o.v. (which I think was note perfect). But anyway… I’ll stop for now!

  16. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Oh, it’s probably too premature to call these criticisms (as I have only read the book once), but rather they are question marks for me–or potential concerns. I want to better understand (a) how the pacing of the narrative works and (b) how the use of first person coupled with the complex narrative structure works. Perhaps my potential concerns would be resolved with rereading and/or discussion–or perhaps they would grow worse. I just don’t know.

    My point with first person narration is that no matter how skillfully it’s written, it often requires the reader to willingly suspend disbelief–and I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a weakness of first person, or that it’s inherently worse than third person. But if you start playing around with first person–the use of a distinctive, but striking voice; switches between first and third person narratives; switches between written and oral narratives–you increase the level of difficulty, and it opens up myriad possibilities for things to go wrong. I agree that MWT handled it perfectly. I’d need a second reading of MOON OVER MANIFEST to be sure that Vanderpool did, too.

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