2011 Newbery Medal
“We talked about other things, too. About how the town seemed to have come back to life. All the Remember When stories in the paper had folks talking about the way Manifest used to be. And all the fine memories they had. And how people used to take care of each other.”
Reading this book made me yearn a bit for my childhood. In the very first chapter, Abilene jumps from the train that is taking her to her new town. She wants to see it ‘before it sees her.’ I’ve never jumped from a train, but back in the old days in the 70′s there were only 4 TV channels and kids were made to play outside and find adventure on their own. I was blessed to have such a childhood, and Abilene’s childhood summer made me remember that.
While Abilene’s story is set in the 1930′s, part of her adventure takes her into the past of 1917 and 1918 as well. Abilene is shipped off by train by her father to the town of Manifest, Kansas to live with Shady, one of the town’s ministers. She attends the last day of school, makes a couple of friends, and discovers some letters and artifacts in her new home. She takes these discoveries to the town diviner, Miss Sadie, who tells her stories of the town’s past, with two boys in particular being the stars.
This started out just to be an average read for me, but I liked it more and more as I read on. With old newspaper clippings from the ‘Reporter About Town’ interspersed throughout the book, and stories of drought, immigration, World War I, bootlegging, and the Spanish Flu, I could clearly imagine this book being turned into film. I can just see the dusty old town now. Recommended for MG and YA historical fiction fans.
(2010, 342 pp.)