by Claire Vanderpool
New York : Delacorte Press, 2010.
Abilene Tucker rode the rails with her father, Gideon, until the day she got hurt and he sent her to Manifest. She knows Manifest because of her father's stories; she knows from his stories that this small town holds a significant place in her father's heart. During the summer of 1936 while she stays with Shady, the fourteen-year interim pastor of the Baptist church, Abilene hopes she can learn more about Gideon Tucker.
Where do I start with my thoughts on this book? I suppose to start at the beginning, I should say that before it won the Newbery Medal, I hadn't even known the book existed. Ever since 2007, I've tried to read the current Newbery Medal winner and at least one honor book, so as soon as the award was announced, I requested it from the library. When I first started reading it, not all that sure what sort of story I was in for, I first noticed the wonderful descriptions. Here's how Abilene describes her father and his stories about Manifest: "His words drew pictures of brightly painted storefronts and bustling townsfolk. Hearing Gideon tell about it was like sucking on butterscotch. Smooth and sweet. And when he'd go back to not saying much, I'd try recalling what it tasted like. Maybe that was how I found comfort just then, even with him being so far away. By remembering the flavor of his words. But mostly, I could taste the sadness in his voice when he told me I couldn't stay with him for the summer while he worked a railroad job back in Iowa. Something had changed in him" (2). Then before I knew it I was hooked not only by Abilene's story but the story from 1917 about Jinx and Ned. I grew truly attached to these characters and the many who populate Manifest in both time periods. This was a truly delightful book that I would recommend to children and adults who enjoy good but not overly long description and memorable characters.